“Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” Matt. 18:5
You’ve heard me say it over and over. Godly parenting and grandparenting demands intentionality. Will I pursue God’s agenda or my own? That was part of the challenge God laid before His people through Jeremiah when He told them to “ask where the good way is, and walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16). The ‘good way’ is the way of intentional travelers whose destination is rest for the soul.
Jesus made it very clear to His disciples that one marker of a person who walks in the “good way” is found in one’s attitude towards children. Do we possess as welcoming heart, or not? And is our welcoming heart displayed only to our own grandchildren, or to all children? Jesus calls us to proactively welcome children because in so doing we declare our allegiance to Christ and the heart of the Father to do all we can to not let any of these little ones perish.
What does it mean to welcome a little child? Perhaps we might begin answering that by looking at what it does NOT mean. It does not mean worshiping children and making them the center of the universe (not anything a grandparent would do, right? At the same time, it does not mean treating them with contempt as second-class citizens. It does not mean ignoring our responsibility to guide them, teach them and embrace them lovingly. It does not mean getting upset because they aren’t acting like adults when they run through the church halls. It does not mean getting irritated with a child for crying in the worship service (I might get irritated at an irresponsible parent, but not the child). It does not mean doing anything that would hinder a child from coming to Christ and knowing how precious they are.
What it does mean is showing interest in them as valued persons made in God’s image. It does mean speaking kindly to them, getting down to their level to engage them. It may mean volunteering to help in the children’s area once a month. It means seeing them as precious to God, rather than a bother.
Most grandparents love their grandchildren. We want to enjoy them. But do we welcome their questions, or their intrusions on our space the way Christ welcomes them?
Welcoming children is something Jesus takes very seriously. In fact, He makes it very clear that to hinder a child from coming to Him in any way, whether directly or indirectly, is to risk severe consequences. Good way travelers look for ways to reach out and welcome the children in their family, their church, and their neighborhood, rather than ignoring them or complaining about them. The thing about choosing to travel the good way marked out by God’s Word is that it always leads to rest for our souls… and likely the children in our path.
Amazing isn’t it! A welcoming heart leads to a restful soul.
GRANDPAUSE:Whoever receives one child like this in My name, receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me (Mark 9:34-37). Therefore, how we deal with children is a signal of our fellowship with God. -John Piper