That’s the question Garrett Kell was forced to answer when his four-year-old daughter heard the unfamiliar word and wondered what it meant. His account of the experience closely mirrors the story my mother tells of the time I asked her the same question. My response was the same as Kell’s daughter:
“Why would someone do that?”
Life is full of complexity and paradox. As we mature, we see that life requires us to make imperfect choices and conciliate between sometimes conflicting values: friendship versus responsibility; family versus honesty.
Great art portrays such tension, none more than the Bible. Why would such catastrophe afflict such a righteous man as Job? How is a father to respond to the return of a wayward son – and what of the other son who did no wrong? What exactly does it mean to love your enemy?
As imperfect people, we don’t always handle these situations well. Even those closest to Jesus Christ struggled. In Matthew 18, the disciples seem to be having a dispute amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest. Do you remember what happens?
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (v. 2-4)
In the midst of life’s most complicated questions (or, in the case of the disciples, selfish ones), childlikeness is a touchstone. That isn’t to say that critical thinking, prudent consideration, and the counseling of wise friends are unnecessary. The opposite is true. But when faced with one of those tough situations when what’s good seems gray, the word of a child unsullied by the complications of the world, may be a witness to the truth.
“Why would someone kill a baby?” Lots of reasons. Yet the horror of a four-year-old’s response bears witness to the truth that it’s an awful, immoral practice and rarely warranted.