Luke 18:16 tells us that Jesus called children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” This was an incredible statement by Jesus because he was bestowing value on a group of people – children – that had no rights or status and were viewed primarily as property in the culture to which Jesus was speaking.
Matthew 18:1-6 gives us the same story with the lead-in of Jesus’ apostles wondering who would be the greatest in God’s Kingdom. The teaching Jesus provides in that moment teaches his followers four important lessons about being the faithful presence of Christ to the world as his ambassadors.
Christians champion children.
The championing of children has been one of the identifying characteristics of the Christian faith since it began. In his book The Rise of Christianity, historian Rodney Stark writes: “In its first three hundred years the early church was renowned for being with children in the streets. Across the Greco-Roman world, Christians took children off the streets where they had been left to die (a practice called infanticide). They adopted children into their homes and cared for them. The early church’s convictions about children led to their singular stand against the common practices of infanticide and abortion in their day. This stunning witness of the early church can be directly
tied to its practices of being with children in and among the neighborhood.”
Being with children, supporting children, teaching children, guarding the welfare of children – all these things ought to be seen in the Christian community since Jesus said that “whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
The presence of Christians in the world ought to be marked by humility.
In Matthew 18:1-6 Jesus confronts his apostles’ concern about their place and status in God’s Kingdom with the example of a child’s humility. Jesus says that without such humility we won’t even have a place in God’s Kingdom. This is because humility is required to confess our sin. Humility is needed for us to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Humility must be present if we are to recognize that we cannot be reconciled to a holy, infinite God unless we trust his grace and obey his will. Most often, it is our pride that keeps us from experiencing the salvation our souls crave; but if we can imitate the humility we find in children, we can find ourselves being welcomed into the presence of God. Thus, the presence of Christians ought to reflect humility.
The presence of Christians in the world ought to be marked by a recognition of our responsibility to lead people closer to Jesus.
Matthew 18:6 speaks to the severity of leading a child or someone who is a “child in the faith” away from Christ. Jesus uses a stark illustration to bring our attention to the influence we have in the lives of others and to cause us to question if we are using our influence in a positive or negative way. Our presence. as Christians, in the lives of others should be such a faithful representation of Christ’s character that it influences others to draw closer to Jesus. If our presence is not having that effect, then we need to change our behavior.
The presence of Christians in the world ought to be marked by nondiscrimination of who can be in the presence of Jesus.
By welcoming children, Jesus was revealing that all people are welcome in his presence. This has huge implications for us as Christians. It means that Jesus was nondiscriminatory in who he invited to know him and to whom he offered salvation. As Jesus’ ambassadors, we Christians must follow suit. We must be present to all people so that all people will know that Jesus wants to be present to them.
The aforementioned lessons are what we learn by Jesus’ willingness to welcome children in Matthew 18:1-6 and his ensuing teaching. And this is why it is important for us to be with children. Being around children reminds us of the lessons mentioned above and provides us a platform to imprint Jesus’ presence on the lives of others.
So, I want to encourage you to find a way that you can regularly serve children and the needs of children. It might be through a tutoring program. It might be through volunteering at a community organization that serves the needs of children, similar to the Center for Children and Families or Bridges, that are both in Norman, OK. You might want to see if your local school needs volunteers for anything.
If you belong to a church family, the one step you can immediately take to become a champion of children is to give your time, talent, and treasure to that church’s children’s ministry. At Alameda, we have a new Children’s Minister who is just getting started in her new role. This is a great time to support our children’s ministry. Not only will you be blessing others, you will be blessed in return.