We were driving along a dirt road in Tanzania, making our way from the lush game parks to dusty Dodoma, the political capital. It was the dry season, so the roads were passable, although filled with potholes bigger than a small child. Our hotel had packed us some lunches in nifty boxes – breaded meats, packets of nuts, and the sweet small bananas I had never tasted from a Western supermarket. With adult-sized lunches packed for our two small children, we had the equivalent of one lunch leftover.
After an hour or so of the bumpy journey, our driver saw a clump of children by the side of the road and asked if we could give the excess food to them. “Why yes,” we exclaimed, embarrassed that we hadn’t thought of it ourselves. We slowed and I opened my window, motioning to a little boy. I pointed to the box and asked him if he’d like it, knowing that he wouldn’t understand English but not knowing how to communicate except through words and motions. Then I asked if I could take his photograph, showing him my camera.
How I wished I could have understood what he was saying, and to hear what his life was like, a little Maasai boy perhaps owning only the clothes on his back. Jesus loves him as much as he loves my boy, who has more shirts than he can wear and more food than he can eat.
Jesus loves the privileged; Jesus loves the poor. His love for us is so all-encompassing and overwhelming that we may struggle to comprehend it. But look at how Jesus shows his love as recorded in the Bible. For instance, one day people were bringing their children to Jesus, asking him to bless them. But the disciples got angry and rebuked the parents. Jesus was indignant, however, saying to the disciples: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). He gathered the children in his arms and blessed them.
In one simple action, Jesus shatters the cultural expectations. For children were then ranked even lower than slaves – they had no status and were often pushed aside as weak. In fact, people often simply threw away unwanted children at birth. Unseemly types would seek out these disposed-of babies and raise them for their own purposes – as gladiators or prostitutes. Or they would disfigure them so that the children would be more heart-rending and lucrative beggars. But to Jesus children were no longer outcasts or distractions, but vitally important members of the kingdom of God.
People are worth everything to God. He made us and delights in us. He showers us with love – the love of a father and a mother. He leads us with cords of human kindness; with ties of love. He delights in us, quieting us with his love and rejoicing over us with singing.
Which children can you love today? Or grown-up children?