"Let the little children come to me…" - Mark 10:14
Around 15 years ago a friend introduced me (Dave Bruner) to the television show Arrested Development. Do you know it? It’s a favorite of mine. It tells the story of a wealthy family whose crooked business dealings go awry, causing no end of legal trouble and belly laughs. One of my favorite plotlines concerns a fancy private school that a member of the family is sent to as a child. The Milford School hilariously one-ups the well-known adage about kids keeping quiet: their motto is "children should be neither seen nor heard." It turns out that the school’s primary goal isn’t so much to provide kids an education or shape them as future citizens. It’s to teach them to blend into their surroundings so that nobody notices them! (One of their students wins a much-coveted award: "least-seen student.")
"Children should be neither seen nor heard." Like many good jokes, this one contains a grain of truth. Our culture often sentimentalizes children. Everybody loves kids, right? They’re so cute and adorable!...until they break something. Or throw a tantrum. Or bring home a boyfriend or girlfriend who rubs you the wrong way. The truth is, kids are wonderful, but they are also very, very demanding. I adore my children, but I also strongly suspect I’m not the only parent who has occasionally wished their kids could be sent off for a spell at the Milford School!
How different I am, and often we are, from Jesus. Jesus didn’t allow his disciples to shoo children away when their parents brought them to him. He took them in his arms and blessed them. I’m sure Jesus had plenty of important things to do (he was the messiah, after all). But he was willing to be interrupted. He was willing to have his agenda altered by attending to the needs and wants of children, those little people whose desires often seem so trivial, so distracting, and whose requests are so easy to ignore and overrule. Jesus took children in his arms and blessed them. In a world that treated children even more harshly than our own, this was a positively counter-cultural act.
Not every Christian is called to be a parent, although many of us are. But every Christian is called to imitate Jesus. And one very simple way we can imitate Jesus is by imitating the kindness and compassion he cultivated toward children.
God, may we grow in the love and patience we display toward these little ones, and in so doing grow to be a little more like Jesus. Amen.