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People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:15-17
Jesus calling and blessing the children doesn’t seem too radical to our contemporary sensibilities. And yet, within the ancient world, it was scandalous. The world belonged to rich powerful men. Children? They were nothing—on the same level as slaves. They were property, with no rights of their own. The message Jesus proclaims is that not only the world, but the Kingdom of God belongs to them. To the point that anyone who doesn’t become a child, anyone who refuses to lose their status in the eyes of the powers that be, “will never enter it.” This is juxtaposed with the story of the Rich Ruler. “A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He was looking for confirmation, instead he ended up “sad, for he was very rich.” He was told that they way into God’s kingdom is through the eye of the needle. Instead of making oneself big with status and wealth, one must become small—one must become nothing in the eyes of the world. The way up is the way down, becoming like a child, giving up all rights and status. Read it for yourself, it’s straight from Luke’s gospel.
The past few days have seen troubling statements from people in power. When asked if Iowa would take in children being housed at the border, Governor Reynolds replied, “This is not our problem. This is the president’s problem. He is the one that opened the borders. He needs to be responsible for this, and he needs to stop it.” Not to be out done, the Governor of South Dakota tweeted, “South Dakota won’t be taking any illegal immigrants that the Biden Administration wants to relocate. My message to illegal immigrants… call me when you’re an American.” Jesus says that one enters the Kingdom of God by becoming like a child—by losing our status in the world; these Governors, both of whom claim pro-life platforms, have slammed the door shut.
Where are the Kierkegaards of our day to remind us that true faith is not found in religion, moral platitudes, or political platforms? Faith is being confronted with the word God speaks and obeying. How many today would justify not walking the road to Mount Moriah based upon pro-life principles? Where are the Bonhoeffer’s of our day, who challenge us to no longer live in the abstract? Who remind us that asking the question “Who is my neighbor?” is a question of disobedience. By asking the question, we try to differentiate, to justify inaction when confronted with the needs of the world. Bonhoeffer writes, “Who is my neighbor? is the final question of despair or hubris, in which disobedience justifies itself. The answer is: You yourself are the neighbor. Go and be obedient in acts of love.” (Cost of Discipleship)
The question facing the Christian community at this moment is this: Do we really believe what Jesus says? If so, are we ready to set aside our status, or privilege, for the sake of our neighbor?
The incarnate one transforms his disciples into brothers and sisters of all human beings. The “philanthropy” (Titus 3:4) of God that becomes evident in the incarnation of Christ is the reason for Christians to love every human being on earth as brother or sister. The form of the incarnate one transforms the church-community into the body of Christ upon which all of humanity’s sin and trouble fall, and by which alone these troubles and sins are borne.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer Cost of Discipleship