“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
— Matthew 18:5 ESV
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
— Mark 10:13–16 ESV
Reflecting on the senseless and tragic slaughter of 19 elementary students in Uvalde, Texas, and the two adults who died with them, I am reminded of the massacre of the Israelite children by order of Pharaoh in Exodus 1:15:22, and then again 1,527 years later by the edict of Herod the Great in Matthew 2:16–18. How dark must a heart be to perpetrate such evil on the innocents? How vile and wicked has the world around us become, and how much deeper into darkness will it plunge? As I see it, there has always been a special place in God’s heart for the children and a special place in hell for those who hurt them.
Although forgiveness is offered to the vilest of men, what will be the end should they leave this world in an unrepentant state? While the Bible does not explicitly tell us the severity of punishment in hell is predicated on the gravity or number of a person’s sins, I find scripture to suggest differing degrees strongly. Acts 1:25, Mt. 23:15, Luke 12:42–48, Mt. 11:23–24, and Hebrews 10:29 are examples. And as I contemplate the words of Jesus in Matthew 18, I find right beneath the sin of rejecting God’s son — saying no to Jesus — is to harm a child.
” Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
— Matthew 18:5–6 ESV
This past Sunday, we looked at what servanthood might look like through the eyes of Jesus, finding the Lord himself the personification of the word. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, you must learn to serve others. Then, this week, our comfy world was shaken by the tragedy in Uvalde, causing me to broaden my thoughts, taking a second look at how Jesus defined greatness. What was his reference point?
Sitting at my desk, in my mind’s eye, I saw little ones running about in play at the feet of Jesus. Safe and secure, they scampered across the dusty streets of Jerusalem without a single care. Laughing, giggling, carefree. “Tag, you’re it,” one shouts. “Catch me if you can,” another challenges. Knowing the servant of all watches over them brings comfort like none other. Fear has no place on that playground. Are you watching over those around you with a servant’s eyes? That’s your charge, Christian. Your assignment as a follower of Jesus is to be available, a listening ear, and a helping hand whenever needed, caring for God’s little ones, both young and old, brown-headed, black, blonde, or bald. We are all his children.