“. . . Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Then Jesus called a little child, stood him in their midst and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Have you noticed how children aren’t all that concerned about differences in other children? They don’t care what race you are, your social or economic status, or whether you have physical imperfections.
Sadly, those years of acceptance don’t last. As we grow older, our attitude toward differences in others turns ugly. It is not that we now notice differences in others – a three-year-old notices different skin colors, or a limp. No, we change by assigning value to those differences. We accept those who are like us, and mock and shun those who are different.
You know the pain that comes from being different, don’t you?
So, why do little children blithely ignore differences in race, wealth, or appearance, while those older use differences as a weapon?
Well, think about it: little children feel loved just because they are there. They have no notion that you earn acceptance. Once you believe you must make yourself worthy of being loved, it means you must grub around for other people to be superior to.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see where this leads. If you are poor, or a racial minority, or have physical blemishes, you are going to get hurt.
Have you heard of the “Quasimodo Complex”? In the British Journal of Plastic Surgery, two physicians made a disturbing discovery. They found that 20.2 percent of the adult population had facial deformities (protruding ears, bent noses, acne scars – that sort of thing). Then they examined 11,000 prison inmates who were doing time for serious crimes. They found that 60 percent of these criminals had these minor facial deformities!
What do you make of this? It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the cruelty and rejection necessary to find others “inferior” is profoundly destructive to them.
When Jesus’ disciples got into arguments over who was greater (as they often did), Jesus loved to grab the closest little kid to plop in front of his disciples. Jesus used them as visual aids to show his disciples that you don’t need to be superior to anyone else. God’s care for you cannot be earned. We must learn to be like a little child, and simply accept God’s love without the slightest notion we are worthy of it.
Do you find yourself preoccupied with complaining about other people and their faults? I’m not saying there aren’t times to criticize, but if you find that it is coupled with a feeling of superiority to them, take it as a warning sign that you probably still feel a need to earn your sense of worth. Don’t fall into this trap. You can’t raise yourself up by putting others down.
There’s a better way. Go to a playground and watch the little kids. Ask yourself what those little beaners had to accomplish before their parents would love them. When you find the answer, you will know how your heavenly Father loves you.
(text copyright 2011 by Marty Kaarre)