Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"An Imagination Stretcher"

Matthew 18.10-11 NKJV

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

I treasure the memory of moments I had with my kids when they were young. Every day, I held my youngest tightly and kissed her tiny cheek, peered into her eyes and said, “You’re my little girl. I love you.” Who wouldn’t love such an adorable, precious little thing? Small children (especially my kids and grandkids) are trusting, innocent, playful, and cute.

The context of the above passage of Scripture is all about children. In answer to their question about “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”, Jesus set a child before the disciples and explained:

“Unless you are converted and become like children,
you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18.3 NASB

The Lord strictly warned His followers against hurting children. According to Matthew 18.6, it would be better to “be drowned in the depth of the sea” with a concrete block tied around their neck than to cause “little ones… to stumble”.

I’ve always understood this Bible verse as a mandate to love my children unconditionally. That’s
not hard for me. After all, I’m their dad. God built me to love my kids. By His creative design, parents love their children. But the last part of this scripture troubles me. “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost”.[1] My kids aren’t lost. Who was Jesus speaking about? Perhaps the object of Christ’s call to love reaches beyond my children to include all children of any age. Jesus may well have intended His followers to embrace humanity with the love of God. 

Some of God’s kids are lost. I can make a (positive or negative) difference. I can “despise [snub, ignore, berate, judge, etc.] one of these little ones” and help to secure their eternal lostness or, I can try to love all God’s children as Jesus did. 

There are multitudes of un-adorable and ‘not-so-cute’ characters out there who are not easy to love. Jesus loves them all the same. He loves the stinking, unshaven, elderly, homeless, overweight drunk men and women looking for a handout as much as He loves my pure and innocent, precious little children and grandchildren. I cannot imagine holding a down-and-outer tightly, kissing his dirty cheek, peering into his eyes, and saying with sincerity the way I do with my own kids, “You are my brother. I love you.”

I need to stretch my imagination.
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Early Greek manuscripts and some New Testament translations do not include verse 11: “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost”.

Photo of homeless man by Tim Boucher. Child photograph from Iowa Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (http://www.iowadec.net/).

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