Becoming Like Little Children
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at GentleBrook in Hartville, Ohio. This wonderful not-for-profit organization provides home health care, senior memory care, and residential and vocational care for the developmentally disabled.
It was founded in the 1970s by Christians from the Mennonite tradition, and it has grown into a multi-facility campus with a farm, vocational workshop, community center, restaurant, and a store that sells donated products and those made by the residents, with proceeds going to fund the ministry.
I was given a tour of the facilities and when I walked into the workshop, I was overwhelmed by the friendliness, openness, kindness, and love. Many of the residents and clients have Down’s Syndrome, and when they saw me — a stranger — they waved, smiled, and came up to hug me, give me a high five, or shake my hand. They were so happy to share what they were doing and just make me feel welcome.
I thought of Jesus’ words, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NIV84).
Reflecting on this, I said to one of the facility’s pastors, “You know, if the Sanhedrin [the Jewish high court that condemned Christ to death] had been made up of people with Down’s Syndrome, when they brought Jesus before them, instead of killing him, they would have given him a big group hug.”
The pastor beamed and said, “You’re right!”
Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). God’s kingdom is the kingdom of love, and love doesn’t exist in books, in creeds, in doctrinal definitions — love exists in the hearts of living beings.
Becoming like little children doesn’t mean that we must have a child’s understanding of math or science, or to be naïve; rather, it means that we have hearts that love, that focus on the relationship, that are able to keep priorities straight. And the priority in God’s kingdom is loving people, not getting Bible questions correct on a quiz. Of course, there is nothing wrong with knowing the correct answers to Bible questions, but simply knowing the correct answer rarely translates to love for other people.
Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, 35 NIV84).
Yes, we must become like the children who love first, then when we see each other, we will be like the two toddlers who ran down the street to embrace one another in a big hug. Their joy and love for each other were caught on a video that went viral on the Internet.
Only when we love like Jesus loves will all people know that we are truly His disciples.