13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ 15And he laid his hands on them and went on his way. - Matthew 19:13-15
We tend to love this text. We think its sweet because we tend to be a culture that values our kids. We are more likely to think too highly of them. So discipline is hard for us. We find ourselves more interested in the happiness of children than anything else.
We look at the disciples in our text and think: “What bullies!”
But, I’m not sure we are all that much better. The disciples were operating in a culture which told them who was worthy of attention and who was not. To the disciples, kids were not.
We may add children to our list of who is worthy, but usually that is children who fit our cultural expectations. I know because I have been around Youth Sports for some time now. We tend to love kids as long as they conform to a certain image. We love a winner. We love a well-dressed and well-behaved kid. We are quick to shoot nasty looks at a family in a restaurant whose kid is having a meltdown. I’ve been at Little League games where the parents literally groan when certain kids come to the plate. I’ve called out to my own daughter when she was more interested in the ants on the field than the soccer game she was playing in by saying: “You better be good at math!” (Subtext, soccer is not your path to college.)
Even our love of kids has cultural boundaries… we love success… we love power… we love well-behaved and clean.
Part of Jesus’ point is to let them all come to him – even the snotty nosed ones… the ones tantrum-ing on the ground… the colicky ones… the uncoordinated ones… the ones with special needs… the less than cute ones.
Jesus’ real point in this passage is that he wants us to approach like those kids. We aren’t to come in power or cuteness or put together-ness. We are to come as if we bring nothing to the table. We are to come as the kid who can’t hit and isn’t good at math… we are to come so that we can be loved, accepted, and embraced.
Jesus, thank you for loving us and making room for us at your side. We confess the ways we see children and ourselves with the expectations of worthiness. We ask that you show us your great love for us as we bring nothing to the table. Then show us how to love others with the same fullness and grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.