Monday, March 4, 2013

The Verses
13 Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.
14 But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.
Why Children?
The fact that the people Jesus is blessing in this story are young children explains the disciples' reaction, and will come into play heavily in each of the facets of this story we'll soon discuss.
In American culture today, we tend to value children - parents, organizations, and all levels of government devote a large chunk of time and money to them.  But in Jewish society at the time of Jesus, the opposite was the case.  To be a child was to be pretty much the absolute lowest member of society - perhaps more valued than a prostitute or leper, but still regarded as wholly worthless.
So, Jesus sets out to change that, demonstrating that every human God has created is extremely valuable.
Contrasting the Ministry Leaders
Although most church paintings we're familiar with depict Jesus as always hanging out with only a handful of people (probably because it takes a long time to paint a person), reading through the Gospels reveals that He was constantly swarmed by crowds.  It's not like He was ever just wandering around looking for some way to pass the time in between miracles.  He was a celebrity, and people flocked to Him all the time.
So, that this Man, who is a national superstar, never has a moment's peace, and is actually God Himself takes the time to bless and handful of the lowest members of society.  And that action wasn't for good PR, like presidents kissing babies.  That's pretty radical.  Can you picture many famous Christian leaders today doing the same thing?
It seems to me that most of them (not all, most) would instead "invest" in the "more influential" people that would "make a difference."  It's not surprising, because that's exactly how the disciples reacted.  It's a form of favoritism shrouded under the guise of applying "practical business sense" to ministry.
But Christ has not called us to engage in "kingdom building" through carefully calculated methods that end up ostracizing the "less important" - He has called us to follow Him That is, He has called us to strive to live exactly as He did.  That means treating those who society labels as worthless like we would royalty.
The Flip-Side
On the other side of that same coin, a common sin that trips up many Christians happens when they are doing something for God (whether ministry work or reaching out to someone in their life or whatever).  When that Christian sees either God blessing that person's work more than their own, or church leadership giving more attention to that person, they can get very jealous.  And they can start to wonder why it's happening like that, since they think their work is more important, or will have more of an impact, or they're putting more effort into it, etc.
But we must guard ourselves from ever starting to think like that.  Perhaps our pride has blinded us, or perhaps that other Christian needs more support and more rapid results to keep them motivated to continue, so God has arranged circumstances in line with that.  Whatever God has called an individual to do is 100% as important as whatever He has called a different individual to do, no matter how important these two callings are from the human perspective.
To Such as These
We just recently covered this same topic of what it means to approach faith like a child, so you can visit that original post for a deeper discussion.  The crux of it is being humble, willing to please, and trusting.
In this, Jesus shames the disciples for not valuing the children by telling them that they need to become more like the children!
Practical Lessons
To quickly sum up, here's how we can apply these verses to our own lives:
  1. In order to truly live as Christ did, we need to take time the show His life not just to those who society labels as "important" or influential, but to the lowest of the low.
  2. If others are showing attention to those who our prideful natues consider "lower" than ourselves, we need to be diligent in an attitude-180.  We need to give up our perceived "right" to more attention.
  3. We should pay attention to how believers of lesser social station act (perhaps the poor, or the lesser educated, etc.), and learn from them.  The hardships they've suffered in the form of societal views very well may have given them a more Christ-like character, full of love and humility.  Luke 7:47 has the same feel (although it applies to genuine sin, not societal labels).
Anything that stuck out to you about this passage you'd like to share with the rest of us? :-)  Questions and comments are always welcome.
Image Citations:
1 - Jesus Christ with Children by Carl Bloch.  Wikipedia.  {{PD-1923}} Public domain in the United States.
2 - The Exhortation to the Apostles by James Tissot.  Wikipedia.  {{PD-1923}} Public domain in the United States.

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