Loving the Little Children Like Jesus Did
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” Matthew 19:14 (NIV)
Heading down the meat aisle of my local grocery store one Sunday afternoon, I paused as my eyes caught the antics of a small boy crouched on the lower deck of a shopping cart. I smiled and said, “Hi! You’re having a great time.”
The father turned from the meat counter and made a disparaging comment about his active son.
“Oh, he’s just a small boy having fun.” I shrugged. “What is he — 2?”
“He’s 4,” the father said dryly.
My face flushed with shame, not so much for the father as for myself. His words were an echo of my own voice in years past when, in moments of exhaustion and stress, I sometimes acted like my children were hindrances to my happiness, an inconvenience rather than a joy. It also reminded me of the times wiser friends came beside me, saying approving words that put smiles on my children’s faces and renewed my resolve to be a better parent.
That was the past; this was the present. I smiled again at the boy, wished them both a good day and moved on. Yet my heart was troubled. Was there something more I, a stranger, could have done or said to affirm that little boy in the name of Jesus?
Just that morning, I had taught a group of children the account of Jesus taking time for kids. I told them children were important to God, even when they didn’t seem important to anyone else.
Jesus told His disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Now, it seemed God was calling me to learn from the lesson I taught and look more closely at how Jesus treated children so I could do the same.
Seeing and hearing adults follow Jesus’ example is crucial to children’s acceptance of God’s love. Words can leave scars that scorn a child’s self-worth and restrict their acceptance of the healing touch of Jesus’ salvation. Affirming words can build bridges to a deeper understanding of God’s love and regard for each child.
We can start with our own children if we are parents, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Taking time to interact with the children around us, whether in a family gathering, in a classroom, on the soccer field or behind a cart in a store checkout line, adds one more confirmation in their memories that they are important and cherished. And if we hear a child devalued, we can accept it as God’s invitation to step forward and treat them as Jesus would, praying God will help us respond with wisdom.
When we stop to pay attention to a kid, kneel at their level, and give up our adult conversations so we can listen to them and watch their latest escapade, we relinquish our superior position and make ourselves equal with them.
As Jesus said, “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4, NIV). Children were lower on the social ladder of Jewish society than they are in our current culture, yet Jesus called His disciples to take on the lowly position of a child.
Dear Father, prick my spirit when I subtly demean the children I encounter in my life. Point out to me the kids I can influence with Your kindness and mercy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.