husband and I find ourselves as “tweeners”—we are in the stage between children
and grandchildren! We have three sons that are now young men and yet
it is too soon to be looking forward to grandchildren. Consequently,
we have to vicariously enjoy the children of our neighbors and friends as
we miss the joy and exuberance a child brings to life. Just the other
evening, we met some friends for ice cream who are parents of a wonderful
2 ½ year old boy. They had heightened his anticipation of our
arrival and as we walked up, he ran toward us with his whole body like only
a toddler can do and greeted us with unabashed joy. In that moment,
all was right with the world because we took on the perspective of a two
year old child.
Jesus had a special love and affection for children, because he saw in them
all the hope and potential of a human being in relationship with God, something
that sometimes gets buried and jaded in an adult. In today’s reading
from Matthew, the disciples were at it again as they argued about who was
going to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They were, I’m sure, comparing
one another in terms of who Jesus spent the most time with, who had given
up the most, who had been present at the most miracles, or who Jesus loved
the most. Once again, they were missing the point of who Jesus was
and what he was about. So, in his frustration with them, he asked a
child to sit down among them as an illustration of what Jesus desired for
his people---the heart and perspective of a child. What a shock
for the disciples, because a child is really antithetical to anything that
the world values or honors. Yet, Jesus was looking at all the wonderful attributes
of children as those that created a heart for his kingdom. These characteristics
1. An open heart: Children experience love with their
whole being and have the gift of both giving and receiving love freely.
They are a picture of unconditional love, forgiving quickly and completely.
2. Trust: Children willingly put their trust in the hands of
loving parents, believing that they will be cared for in a secure and safe
3. Dependence: Children are dependent upon their parents for every
need in life and they have faith that their parents are reliable and trustworthy.
In their dependence, they experience humility in the purest form.
4. Curiosity: When children are in a safe and loving environment, they
have the ability to explore and learn about their world and other people
as they grow and develop.
5. Purity: Children, in their innocence, have a sense of purity
about them in that they have not yet learned a sense of jadedness or defensiveness
toward life. They are clean slates before relationships and experiences
of life scar them.
Jesus was asking his disciples---and us---to change our direction and to
turn our definition of what makes greatness upside down. He wants us to take
on the heart of a child in our relationship with him. He desires our
continual, daily conversion to a childlike state characterized by an open
heart, trust, dependence on him, the ability to grow in our relationship
with him and purity in our response to his love. That’s really what
greatness is all about.