Young people, have you received Christ? This is an important question for all to ask themselves. First however we must be clear about the question itself. I do not intend the question as so many in the church world today intend it. I do not ask if you have accepted Christ. I do not even ask whether you have received Christ as your savior. If you are one of his elect then he has chosen you, not you him. My intent in asking the question is found in Matthew 18:5 where we read, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”
Selfishly the disciples of Christ, having just recently been made acutely aware of their limitations and failings in their inability to cast a demon out of a young man, now come to him with a very simple, yet loaded question. I dare say they had no idea or inkling of the answer that Christ would give. What was the question? Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? This question they asked, naturally assuming that each of them would surely occupy one if not the greatest position in heaven, beneath Christ that is. How shocked each of them must have been to hear the answer that Christ gave them.
It was actually not simply a verbal answer but Christ also used actions to make his point and to bring that point home to the disciples. Without answering them he called to a little child, quite possibly playing outside the circle they made in their interaction. Christ then took that child and only after placing him in the middle of the circle did he answer the question by informing the disciples that only they that humbled themselves like the child they now looked upon could even enter the kingdom much less be great in it. What a shock that must have been to these men, still stuck on themselves and their gain, not yet realizing or comprehending how in many cases they themselves would lose much because of their faith.
And yet Christ doesn’t stop here. He brings the point even closer to home by informing those who stood around that anyone who received one of these little children in his name, in all actuality received Christ himself. In other words, whoever treats a little one such as this well, whoever welcomes them into fellowship and cares for them showing them the love of Christ, in doing so shows love and honor to Christ himself.
There are implications to this answer. The first in the negative aims at those who do not receive the little ones. Matthew 18:6 tells us; “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.” This is a harsh indictment indeed. And yet, when we understand that in offending these little ones we offend Christ himself it becomes a mere shadow of the real punishment that awaits such.
And so I ask again young people. Have you received Christ? Have you welcomed into your fellowship one of his little ones? More broadly, how do you treat and interact with your peers, be it in school, at home, at work, or wherever you may find yourself? It is often said that children and young people can be utterly cruel. I know from my own sinful experience that this is true. But do we realize that in excluding some because of the way they dress or possibly because of what we would label a lack of social skills that we in reality exclude Christ? When we mock and ridicule others because they don’t measure up to our own sinful standard we mock and ridicule Christ. Verbal and even physical abuse of the one who stands firm in his or her convictions and faith is actually abuse of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, the same Jesus who not only gave his life for you but even more, was totally and completely rejected of God for you.
Surely the worst result of this type of behavior is the rejection of Christ. But another result that we must see is the hurt and pain, sometimes lasting a lifetime, to the one that is not received in the love of Christ. You must realize this young people. You must do so because you will be held accountable for your receiving, or lack thereof, in the last day. Your actions, hurtful as they can be, can and often do scar young and old. Let me illustrate my point with a personal experience.
My wife and I and really our whole family were blessed some sixteen years ago with a special needs child. I remember vividly some time ago one of our other boys telling us that some of his peers had ridiculed him because his big brother wears diapers. That is a scar he will wear for the rest of his life. That is a scar that my wife and I will wear for the rest of our lives. Thankfully, God is gracious. Through His mercy we are able to wear those scars with righteous pride. Yet as scars often do, they still hurt from time to time. Remember that young people.
And yet this goes deeper than just simply refraining from teasing or mocking. It goes deeper than not taking part in the backbiting and gossiping. Receiving God’s people in the name of Christ, no matter the color of their skin, how they dress, or how they talk, also means standing beside them, supporting them, and often standing up for them. If you would not stand up for your peers, how in the world can you stand up for Christ? If you are unable to defend the honor of a fellow saint against a verbal attack by another, how will you ever be able to stand up and defend the honor of the Christ that the world criticizes and mocks? If you receive his little ones in his name, then you receive him too.
There is a second implication to this receiving of the little ones. This implication however is in the positive. If, when we reject these little ones we reject Christ, then it follows that when by the grace of God we receive them, we receive the Lord who bought us. By receiving him I mean that we show our love for him. We show to him our thankfulness for his saving sacrifice. We give him the honor that is due to him alone. And when we do that he is glorified. Then by the grace of God we too are blessed. Blessed in a way that brings joy to the soul and a peace that we cannot understand.
May it be the case that we receive the little ones and all of our fellow saints in the name of Christ and in so doing receive him, our savior and redeemer. He who first choose and received us into his covenant and fellowship and ever preserves us and cares for us, giving us the grace to honor and adore him in all of our life. To him be the glory!