“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child, and had him stand among them.
3And he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”
Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
15 When he had laid his hands on them, he went on from there.
Become like little children
In 2002, I boarded a little plane and flew into Afghanistan to work with a child-focused aid organisation called War Child. I will never forget the year I had there, for a multitude of reasons. But the moments that are etched most into my memory and my soul, are the times that I spent with the Afghan children.
In a country scarred so deeply by so much war, poverty and tragedy, it amazed me sometimes how anyone could feel any happiness at all. Yet, somehow… most of the children I came across, were filled with a great resilience and an abundance of joy. Even when living in filthy, mud brick houses without running water or electricity. Even when they had lost family members through war. Even when living in orphanages without books or toys.
I can’t help but think of these kids when I reread the words, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven”.
I write this in light of the deaths of 5 aid workers killed recently in Afghanistan. It’s easy to become angry and try and lay blame. But instead I try and remember those words. To try and change and become more like those children. They do not worry themselves with hatred or revenge, religious or racial differences, or trying to accumulate wealth or power. They delight in simple pleasures and their faces light up at the sight of a stranger. Surely the Kingdom of Heaven does belong to such as these.
Joanna Francis has worked in Afghanistan and East Timor managing child protection projects.