One thing to watch for when assessing a person’s spiritual fitness for ministry is how he or she relates to children. Put a child in the room and watch. This is what Jesus did to make his point. Children are the litmus paper to expose the presence of pride.You might think that the main thing Jesus would do is to say, “Don’t be proud, become like children.” He did say essentially that in Matthew 18:3, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” But he said something else even more striking. When Jesus saw that his disciples were arguing over which of them was the greatest, “He sat down and called the twelve. . . .And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’” (Mark 9:34-37).
Receiving a child into your arms in the name of Jesus is a way to receive Jesus. And receiving Jesus is a way to receive God. Therefore how we deal with children is a signal of our fellowship with God. Something is deeply amiss in the soul that does not descend (or is it really ascend?) to love and hold a child.
Therefore, it may be good to call to mind the ways Jesus related to children. Ponder these and let them stir in you the longings of Christ. What could be more significant than receiving Christ and receiving God the Creator in him? Amazingly, Jesus says we may do this in ministry to children.
1. Jesus was a child.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. (Isaiah 9:6)
2. Jesus took children in his arms and blessed them.
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them.” . . . And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:14-16)
3. Jesus healed a child of a foreign woman.
“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:28)
4. Jesus cast a demon out of a child.
And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. (Matthew 17:18)
5. Jesus raised a child from the dead.
Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”And immediately the girl got up. (Mark 5:41-42)
6. Jesus used a child’s loaves and fish to feed five thousand people.
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” (John 6:9-10)
7. Jesus said you should become like a child.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)
8. When Jesus came, children cried “Hosanna!” to the Son of David.
The chief priests and the scribes saw . . . the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15)
9. Jesus predicted the terrible days when fathers would give their children up to death.
“And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child.” (Mark 13:12)
10. Jesus said that if you receive a child in his name, you receive him and the one who sent him.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:37)
May the Lord teach us this profound truth—that loving children in the name of Christ is loving God the Son and God the Father. Indeed it is more: It is welcoming and receiving and communing with God. Nursery work “in the name of Christ” is no small wonder.
[Adapted from A Godward Life, Book Two, pp. 188-190]