Matthew 18:1-3It's difficult for many, especially in the western world where society tends to dote on children, outwardly anyway, to fully appreciate the impact of what Jesus Christ did and said here in response to his disciples' question.
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
During Jesus Christ's ministry to Israel, to say that children were "neglected" (neglect being merely one particular form of child abuse) by the prevailing society and culture would be a gross understatement. Children, previous to growing to the age of accountability at around twelve years old, were counted among the sheep and the goats -- as mere property.
That's why -- when Jesus Christ set a little child in the midst of his disciples and informed them that, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven" -- it stopped their theoretical "who is the greatest" debate dead in its tracks. And I imagine, with every mouth agape too.
Verses 4-5I've not only heard theoretical debates about "who is the greatest" among so-called "Christians" through the years, I've been duped into participating in them -- mentally anyway, if not out loud. One school holds that whoever converts the most people to Christ is "the greatest." Another school holds that whoever performs the most spectacular miracles is "the greatest." Yet another school holds that whoever can pack the most acolytes into a stadium, convention hall or church auditorium is "the greatest." Still another school holds that whatever denomination is the oldest is "the greatest."
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
But however much they have trumpeted to the contrary, the one quality that has been glaringly absent, in the various adherents to these various schools that I have known, has always been humility.Children, on the other hand, are naturally humble, which makes them naturally receptive to the truth, especially from those closest to them. Before the age of accountability, they have yet to fully develop what psychologists call "boundaries" -- either healthy ones or unhealthy ones. This lack of boundaries, however, not only tends to make young children humble to the truth, it also leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, especially by those who they ought to be able to trust. 1
Although there is no shortage of neglect in America, the species of abuse that seems more prevalent today is the exploitation of children's natural humility and lack of boundaries (exploitation sexually, and otherwise too -- for instance when a parent obliges a child to play the role of surrogate spouse emotionally, as "Daddy's little princess" or "Mommy's little man").
It is no accident what the Lord Jesus Christ declared, the very next thing in the book of Matthew, regarding those who fail to receive a little child as they would receive him:
Verses 6-7The offences themselves are bad enough, to the woe of this world. The best outcome the perpetrators can hope for, short of repentance, would be to drown in the depth of the sea with a millstone hung around their necks. But how much worse is the sin of someone who promotes and/or enables the offence, say for instance, by underhandedly covering it up?
But whoso [which would include parents or anyone else] shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Verses 8-10Since graduating from the Way Corps in 1983, I have had to deal with six separate incidents of child abuse and the cover-up of child abuse, all of them involving so-called "believers." I've dealt with the denial, the hysteria, the histrionics, the false accusations and the outright lies that tend to accompany instances of child abuse -- more than any sane man would ever choose.
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell [gehenna] fire.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
The training that I have received during these incidents -- by the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ -- has put me in a position where I can help if you, if you and your family are suffering from this sin and its effects. Whether you yourself are perpetrating the abuse, or whether you have suffered or are suffering from the abuse, or whether you have merely been made aware that abuse is occurring, please email me here at the BRJ if you think I could be of help.
I'll sure try my best to do so.I realize that the Lord was speaking, in Verses 8-10 of Matthew 18, during a administration that was different than the Administration of the Grace of God that we live in today (see Ephesians 3:2). I realize that individuals today are justified and sanctified in Christ Jesus, wholly apart from the sins that they commit or refrain from committing (see Romans 3:21-26).
Nevertheless, I take comfort in the fact -- proven time and again throughout history -- that God Almighty is not without resources to deal with sinners who refuse to turn away from their sin -- whether they are born again of God's spirit or not -- in the exact way, shape and form that they deserve.