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An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Child-Like, Not Childish
I think we live in a culture that tolerates, even rewards childish behavior. I mean, the people of Montana just elected a man to Congress who pushed down a reporter, because the candidate got mad that the reporter was aggressively doing his job. Now, if this had happened in an elementary school, Montana’s new congressman would have been suspended for five days. But since he is an adult and lives in a society that only punishes children for acting like children, his childishness is discounted. And let’s face it, modern political campaigns have more to do with name-calling than problem-solving. Now, for me, this is childish behavior, and those who think acting like a child shows some kind of inner strength might want to reevaluate their assumptions.
Of course, this isn’t the kind of behavior that Jesus suggested when he took the little child and put him by his side. In other words, he wasn’t telling us to tolerate childish acts and people. Rather, he was commanding us to accept those who are like children, and using a first-century understanding of childhood, he wasn’t talking about the cute and cuddly. No, in Jesus’s world, children were on the lowest rung of the society ladder; they were people who lacked power, even over themselves. Those are the “children” about whom Jesus was talking. And I think that applies to us just like it did to his disciples. Our call is to accept the child-like and not sit quiet and overlook the childish.