The disciples came to Jesus and asked: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5).
I wonder what Jesus meant when he challenged his disciples to “become like little children”? I remember chatting about this with a group of friends once. What is it about children that Jesus values and asks us to imitate?
We came up with a long list: Children look at the world with awe and wonder. They are innocent and uninhibited. They have so much potential. They have a real sense of justice, and what is right and wrong. They express their emotions easily. They live in the moment and have a real sense of fun. The list goes on.
I expect many of us have childhood memories that could relate to some, if not all of those aspects of childhood.
And then stuff happens. Along the way our confidence or self-esteem can get knocked, we can be disappointed, or hurt, or face rejection or bereavement, and we can become a bit jaded maybe. Cynical even.
Jesus’ words challenge us in two ways: Firstly they encourage us to look at those childlike qualities and to imitate them. Secondly he affirms that children have deep worth, and inspires us to welcome them, to care for them, to nurture them.
Today a group of us met to pray for our schools. It is a privilege for us in Blackley to have regular involvement with 5 schools, whether that is for assemblies, supporting governing bodies, or inviting the schools to church at Christmas, Easter and Harvest.
We acknowledged that our schools can sometimes be difficult places, and the hard- working and dedicated staff, as well as the children, face many pressures, with limited resources.
And so we prayed for our schools. That they would be places of peace, nurture and safety. That staff and students alike would flourish and grow. We prayed for resilience: that as they grow up, the young people would maintain that deep sense of worth placed upon them by Jesus. And we prayed that our schools would raise up citizens who would fight for justice and peace.
And as we prayed for our schools, for the staff and the children alike, we also wondered how, we, the church in Blackley, might seek to be part of the answer to our prayers: how we might help support our schools further. If you have any suggestions, please let us know!