13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, place his hands on them and blessed them.
What would you say is your attitude towards children? How do you see them? Do you like playing with them? Some of you were counsellors at our summer camp this year. I’m sure you like being around them. They might drive you crazy. But they are wonderful, interesting, and fun. You feel like a child yourself after spending time with them.
That’s not how people in Jesus’ time saw children. It was the opposite to how we see them. You see this in today’s passage.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.Mark 10:13
The disciples’ reaction was reflective of how children were thought of at that time. They were seen as having little to no status. They were seen as having no power. They were seen as a nobody. Not worth our time and attention. They were grouped in the same category as women, lepers, and tax collectors.
That was the culture back then. We are influenced by the culture around us. We are shaped by what we hear and what we see in society. Many times, we just go along without thinking. Those things, in turn, fuel our assumptions and our beliefs.
That is why it is important to learn how to think critically. Without really examining what we hear and what we see, we can easily contribute to what is damaging and harmful in our society. Ageism, Classism, Sexism, and Racism – these are not limited to a particular time and generation. They still exist today. They are hardened forms of unexamined, biased, false assumptions and beliefs that we hold about certain types of people. They can even lead to extreme acts of violence and persecution.
I came across a sad and tragic news story this week. Last weekend in US, a 71-year-old man was charged with stabbing a six-year-old boy (Wadea Al-Fayoume) and his mother. The mother survived, but the boy died. The man who stabbed them was their landlord. He had no problem with them before. But once the war between Israel and Hamas started happening, his view of them suddenly changed. He killed them – because they were Muslim.
The disciples acted from their assumptions, not their understanding. But Jesus didn’t go along with what they did. He didn’t hold the same assumptions as his disciples did. How does he respond?
When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.
Jesus was not only annoyed, but furious at what he saw. So he challenged the disciples’ assumptions.
He said to them, “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
Jesus didn’t see the children as some kind of objects. Instead, he saw them as unique and precious beings. He didn’t treat them based on how useful they were to him. He removed the distance that separated them by bringing the children closer to him. He simply embraced them. He healed and blessed them.
And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.Mark 10:16
We’ve been reflecting on what it means to “welcome” others. Few weeks ago, I talked about how welcoming has to do with giving others our complete and undivided attention. Last week, Rev. Simon talked about the importance of welcoming those who aren’t considered as acceptable. Today, we see how in order to welcome someone, we must learn to challenge and go beyond our own assumptions.
How often do you decide how you will treat the other person based on what you see on the outside? By how they dress and act? By what you hear about that person from someone else? How often do you go and find out who that person is for yourself?
That is the difference. Between assuming and understanding. Between isolation and connectedness. Between a cliquey, judgemental and divisive community, and a welcoming, diverse and harmonious community.
Be willing to challenge your own assumptions by welcoming others. Get closer to each other. Talk to each other whenever possible. That is what the fellowship time is for. Drop whatever you had in mind and be present with the other. Don’t do it just once. Do it continuously. Treat it as a journey of endless discovery.
There is the famous saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” When I go shopping for books, I do that sometimes though. But there is truth to that statement. People really are like books. Émile Zola, the French novelist, once said—
We are like books. Most people only see our cover, the minority read only the introduction, many people believe the critics. Few will know our content.Émile Zola
Don’t be those who only look at the cover. Don’t be those who only read the introduction. Don’t be especially those who believe the critics. Be the few who have the desire to know the CONTENT of others.
That is how Jesus lived. He didn’t just settle with what he saw on the surface. He didn’t thoughtlessly accept what he heard from others. Rather, he tried to look at the hearts of people and understand them for who they were. He paid special attention to those who were marginalized and outcast in our society. He lifted their spirits up by letting them know that they were just as important and valuable as others.
Follow in Jesus’ footsteps. As the month’s theme says, welcome all. Don’t discriminate based on your assumptions. As human beings, it’s hard not to do that. Understand your neighbour – no matter who they are. Your world will grow bigger. You will become a bigger person. Hi-C will become a spiritual community where people encounter the love and presence of Christ who welcomes us all.