To Such as These
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17, NRSV)
A pastor friend of mine who works in another state recently shared an experience that occurred during the Lord’s Supper at his church. In the congregation he serves, communion is taken by small groups gathering around the table in turns and passing the communion elements to one another. This pastor encourages each person, as the elements are passed, to say, “This is the Body of Christ” and “This is the Cup of Salvation,” or other appropriate words of welcome and grace. Young children are included in this, so that they learn the practice and the language of the Lord’s Supper.
On a recent Sunday, it so happened that a four-year-old girl was positioned to pass the communion bread to a 90-year-old who was standing beside her. She knew she was supposed to say something as she passed the bread. This little girl looked at the wizened elder beside her and pronounced, “You are a child of God.” As my pastor friend described it, “Everyone melted.” “This child had heard herself called this so many times, that it was what she wanted to say at the table, because those words meant something to her.” The pastor saw this as a testimony to the fact that what we do and say in regard to the children in our midst, really does matter. Not only does this little girl already know herself to be a child of God, but she understands that it’s true as well for those of us who are no longer “children,” no matter how old we may be.
The 16th century reformer Martin Luther, who struggled so mightily with the concept of grace, is said to have placed his hand on his head every morning to remind himself of his baptism; to remind himself that his salvation came only from the grace of God in Christ, and not through any worthiness of his own. One of the greatest of the Protestant reformers needed to remind himself each day that he was wholly dependent upon God, as a child is dependent on the care and discipline of a loving parent. When you and I acknowledge the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ, we begin to understand the glorious privilege of being grafted onto the Body of Christ as part of the family of God. We are received into the family, not because we are worthy, but because we are needful, and willing to acknowledge that need before God.
How would your days be different, if you started each one of them by reminding yourself that you are – before and above all else – a child of God? How would your relationships with others be different if you reminded yourself daily that every person you encounter – no matter how broken or imperfect – is also a “child” who is deeply desired in the family of God? “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said. “For it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”
With prayers for your journey,