The first baby I ever held in my life was my youth minister’s son, Seth. I was in early high school, and Teddy, my youth minister, was more than just a youth minister to me, he was a mentor, a friend, a confidant. When I learned that he and his wife Cheryl were having a baby I was ecstatic, and couldn’t wait to hold this little child. It was a few weeks after he was born before the teens were allowed to hold him, and wisely, the girls got the first chance. But finally my moment came. We were at Pizza Hut, eating dinner together as a youth group, and I had no idea how to hold a child, which probably showed, but we both survived. It was in that moment that I realized how helpless and fragile infants are; his life was in many ways in my hand. He offered me nothing of value. He couldn’t do anything for me. But I realized he was important, not because of who he might become someday, but simply because he was alive.
Often we operate under a “what can you do for me” philosophy. We may not mean to do so, but we often value others, and accept them based on the benefit we may receive in return. If someone has been kind to us, we are often kind in return. However, those who are always just taking from us, we often struggle to continue to love. Not saying this is right or wrong, it’s just the reality.
Which makes Jesus so different, especially as he welcomes the infants in Luke 18. Jesus is extremely busy. He has limited time, and a very specific task to accomplish. Jesus doesn’t have time to waste, so he probably should spend his time in places that will have the most impact for his ministry. While he obviously chooses at times to focus on the twelve, and even the three of Peter, James, and John, it would also make sense to make his public times focused on those that will create the greatest impact for the future.
So in Luke 18, it makes perfect sense that the disciples are pushing away those who are coming to bring infants for Jesus to bless. It’s not that they don’t love infants, but they recognize that Jesus has limited time and he needs to stay focused on those that will receive the greatest impact. Infants are wonderful. They are great to hold, and give you a warm feeling inside. But they aren’t going to remember Jesus’s touch. No matter how magical Jesus is, these infants won’t remember this moment. With so many people to be with, Jesus needs to focus on the most important ministry.
But Jesus will have none of it. Let the children come to me. Let those the world feels have no value come to me. Let those who can never do anything for me, and will never remember this interaction, come to me. For the Kingdom belongs to such as these. The Kingdom belongs to those whom the world often ignores. The Kingdom belongs to those who come offering nothing in return. The Kingdom belongs to those who are deemed to have no value, no worth. The Kingdom belongs to those that sometimes get in our way, demand our attention, and are needy, always looking for more. The Kingdom belongs to ones like these infants, or the aged, or the handicapped, because the Kingdom is not about what you can bring to the Kingdom and make it better, but about showing the love of God in all ways. And as we welcome those whom the world deems have no value, we come to understand the love of Christ more clearly who welcomed all to the Kingdom.
At times we fall into the same trap. For instance, family A comes to church; they have good incomes, they are talented, they have children that will be involved in kids ministries; we are excited to have them, they will make our church stronger. But should we be more excited for them just because of what they bring? That’s not the Kingdom. It’s not that the rich and powerful aren’t allowed to come to the table, it’s just the Kingdom doesn’t beg for their attendance, they aren’t necessary for survival. Instead, it’s the opposite. The ones the Kingdom truly needs are the young, the aged, the handicapped, the ones the world often labels as unimportant or even ignores. These are the heart of the Kingdom because they teach us to love. And what they provide is not measured in ways the world will ever recognize or understand. But they are the heart of the Kingdom.
May we always have a place for such as these. May we always welcome them, and offer them a place at the table. May we welcome them to leadership. May we love them, and give them our presence and our time. For the Kingdom belongs to such as these.
And, in reality, that’s really who we all are, isn’t it! We are the such as these.