Measuring Greatness: Children and the Kingdom of God
By Dr. Diane Langberg
What is the condition for greatness in the kingdom of God? That seems like a pretty important question, doesn’t it? In essence, what does it take to be great in the greatest kingdom of time and eternity?
If we look around the faith community today there seem to be some who have achieved greatness. They are respected, followed, lauded and raised high. They are articulate, charismatic, read by thousands and verbally powerful. They are known. However, such lives do not provide us with the answer. In response to the question raised by his disciples, who while jostling for greatness, nevertheless asked a highly significant question, Jesus placed a little child in their midst. Apparently, Jesus measures greatness differently in his kingdom.
In our kingdoms greatness is measured by high position, fame, money, and power. No child would qualify. As a matter of fact children would get trampled in such a kingdom. And indeed they do. In our efforts to achieve what we call greatness, we ignore, use, humiliate, and fail children in many ways, including complicity in covering such things as abuse when exposure threatens our coveted greatness.
You see, Jesus measures greatness on the level of soul not size. We can have large sized trappings and be known as great. Jesus wants a great soul known to be like him and he became little. He put the child in the middle and said unless you get down here you cannot achieve greatness.
So how do we know if we are like a child? How do we know if we have achieved greatness in the kingdom of God? He told us the answer quite clearly: if we are like the child we will receive the child. In addition he says that those who hurt children or cause them to stumble are exposed as not having a child heart.
When we turn our eyes away, close our hearts, deny truth for the sake of comfort or fame; when we under any circumstances respond in a way that does not receive, nurture or protect a child we actually destroy not only the child but also ourselves. Jesus says in making such choices it would have been to our profit to have a millstone around our necks and be drowned in the sea. The offender will make more in the economy of God by such a death than he ever will if he offends a child.
The child-heart receives the child. Those without a child-heart offend the child or protect those who do. Those who receive the child also receive Jesus. Those who do not receive the child offend Jesus. To abuse or wound a child; to conceal or remain silent about such abuse is to wound Jesus. Our treatment of children, in public or in secret, is an expose of the size of our souls. Given the statistics about child abuse in the faith community and the staggering failure of leaders, parents, and religious institutions to protect the children I would say that we have very few great souls among us today. We can test our own souls by our relationship to children.
The great souls among us bend down, slow down and protect little ones and vulnerable ones. The great souls demonstrate humility, simplicity, and yield to instruction. Children always bear the impress of others in their lives. To be great in the kingdom of God is to bear the impress of Jesus who blessed the children and never offended one.
Our false measures of greatness lead us to despise the little ones. In doing so, we despise Christ. To despise a little one is also to despise the angels in heaven and the Eternal God for whom they serve the little ones.
To be great then means to speak out for the little and the vulnerable. It means to expose the deeds of darkness and rescue the oppressed and abused. It means to stop, listen, receive and act on behalf of the children. It means to know that no mission, no church, no school, no family and no institution is to allow or conceal the despising of little ones and that if it does all those who are complicit in that offend both children and Christ. Those who fail to receive one child anywhere at any time are not great no matter their accomplishments but instead are contributing to the destruction of a child, the shrinking of their souls and the marring of the name of the greatest One who ever walked this earth – the one who was born a babe in a manger.
Dr. Diane Langberg is a psychologist with forty years’ experience working with trauma nationally and globally and serves as a GRACE Board Member. More information can be found at: www.dianelangberg.com.
This article was originally published on August 8, 2014 for the Religion News Service (RNS). Used with permission.