Despising the Little One
Matt. 18:10 ¶ “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.
Who were the little ones? They may have been the new followers of Jesus Christ — those who didn't know much about Jesus. Or they may have been the marginalized of society, the ones who were not seated at the table with the powerful. They were the little children, the women, the slaves, the poor and the sick. Somehow they didn’t meet up to the standards of those who would appear to be “acceptable” in the eyes of the world and they were kept out of sight, and out of mind. But in Jesus’ kingdom these were his people and he loved them all.
Those in the crowd would have all understood what Jesus was saying about the angel for it was believed that each person and each nation had their own angel. This was their “guardian” angel who served as the protector of that individual or that nation. Therefore Jesus adds this statement which brings profound understanding to the state or the condition of the little ones. They are so respected in the eyes of God that the power systems of humans do not determine their place before God because their angels continually see the face of the Father. In other words, they are in the very presence of God, face to face with God continually. This statement places the little ones at the very highest place of honor and respect in the kingdom of heaven.
My aunt Shirley had a profound impact on my young life. My father’s little sister had been born with Down’s syndrome, but also a congenital heart defect. The result was that she was a “blue baby” who was starved for oxygen the first few minutes of her birth leaving her not only with Down’s but with additional brain damage. Aunt Shirley never learned how to talk or even feed herself. She was in constant need of care — 24/7 her entire life. The doctors had predicted that she would not live long for she was born out on the Nebraska Prairies, far from any type of extraordinary medical care or attention. Should it surprise us then that she lived well into her fifties?
My grandfather and grandmother did not despise this little one. Instead, they poured all of their love and attention on her, nurturing her throughout her entire life. As a small child I was privileged to watch the way in which they cared for her. It was their gentle love that did much more than modern medicine could have ever done and brought her through a long and blessed life. No, Shirley never did all the things that “normal” people may have done but she did know the love of Christ in a way that many may never have the joy of experiencing. There were no barriers to her relationship with our Creator — barriers that often we ourselves create. She never strove for a place of position or power within the structures of this world, she simply lived and loved and received love.
We may not always understand where we find ourselves in life. We may be confronted with “these little ones” or we ourselves may be the “little ones.” Times and circumstances can change quickly. May we be careful to never despise the one who is not like us and may we remember that they have front row access to the Father in heaven. Yes, it’s the upside-down kingdom and it is glorious. When you meet that special or unique person today don’t look past them, look right at them and maybe you will be privileged to catch a glimpse of the Father reflected in their eyes. Capture that special moment for “these little ones” are more precious than we can imagine.
Lord, thank you for the little ones that you place in our lives as reminders of who you are. Amen.