“People were bringing even infants, presumably those so young that they needed to be carried, and other children to Jesus ‘that he might touch them.’ Perhaps they had heard of Jesus’ miraculous healing powers and wanted to gain some of that for their children. However, that is partly to impose our more caring view of children onto first-century people. The literature on how children were viewed then suggests that people then did not value children very highly. Children were, in one interpretation, seen to be on the same social level as slaves: with few rights, open to abuse, and lacking protection under Jewish law. Other, more moderate views are that children were merely treated with indifference. . . . Clearly there is more than a metaphor here; there is an emotional image for us who would be disciples to imitate. There is something about Jesus that is a blessing, a hospitality, an approachability, a charisma that draws others into him. Luke the author wants us to get that image. . . . No one can merit or achieve the kingdom; it must be received without merit, as a child receives everything. . . . We, like the disciples, are to welcome as Jesus welcomed. We are to follow the example of Jesus, who called the marginal and the despised to himself. What we can do out of gratitude is to call the socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ. Like the early church, we are to transform society by not just accepting but seeking out the outcasts and the marginalized. We are to treat them as Jesus did the children. . . . Ministry to, with, and for those who are on the margins is our response to God’s welcome of us. . . . What is the quality that commends children? Precisely their dependency. Their dependence on adults mirrors our dependence of God; that is one of the marks of the kingdom, which belongs to them (v. 16b). Here is exemplified the equal unworthiness, marginality and dependence of us all before God.” Shannon Jung
“Whoever does not receive
the kingdom of God as a little child
will never enter it.”
Luke 18:17 NLT
Moving From Head to Heart
- What would a church look like that called the “socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ?”
- How would that impact it’s philosophy of ministry? . . . congregational demographics?
- Have you ever been an outsider? Are there many socially rejected people in your congregation? . . . in your list of friends?
Abba, thank you for our approachable Jesus.
For More: Feasting on the Gospels, Vol. 2 by Cynthia Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, eds.
“We all suspect that the world is a crueler place than we dare to admit. Since the poor confront us with this evil, it is tempting to avoid them. But if we let their stories break our hearts, they can open our eyes to marvels we scarcely dared imagine. They reveal the revolution of love that God is bringing about in the world. There is a lot of dying going on, but a lot of rising as well. That is the deepest meaning of history and of our lives. But we perceive the daily resurrections only if we open our eyes to the crucifixions. To share the hope of the poor, we must let their suffering move us and place us before the Holy Mystery laboring among us.” Dean Brackley
“When we are not afraid to confess our own poverty, we will be able to be with other people in theirs. The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognises the Christ who lives in other people’s. Just as we are inclined to ignore our own poverty, we are inclined to ignore others’. We prefer not to see people who are destitute, we do not like to look at people who are deformed or disabled, we avoid talking about people’s pains and sorrows, we stay away from brokenness, helplessness, and neediness. By this avoidance we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us. But when we have discovered God in our own poverty, we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God. …The poor have a treasure to offer precisely because they cannot return our favours. By not paying us for what we have done for them, they call us to inner freedom, selflessness, generosity, and true care. Jesus says: ‘When you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again.’ (Luke 14:13-14).” Henri Nouwen
“He will rescue the poor …
for their lives are precious to him.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you honest with yourself about “poverty” in your life?
- Are you inclined to ignore people who make you uncomfortable? …what in you makes you uncomfortable?
- Do you think a poor person could teach you anything about “inner freedom, selflessness [or] generosity?”
- Is that even logistically possible – do you ever actually make a point to speak with or know someone who is poor?
Abba, thank you for truly poor friends who love, inspire, encourage and instruct me.
For More: Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”