By John Blase
Just like you’ll probably never forget the face of your first girlfriend, the translation you used when you first began to memorize Scripture stays with you for a long, long time. In my case, this means I’ve heard a lot of Scripture read from the King James Version. One of the first verses I memorized is from the Gospel of Matthew. In it, “Jesus says, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 19:14).
As a boy I remember hearing that passage in Sunday School and thinking the word suffer could mean only one thing: “to hurt.” Maybe someone tried to clarify this for me, but I cannot recall a single grown-up telling us that, in this case, the word meant “to allow, or permit.”
So back then, in my mind’s eye, I envisioned Jesus cutting through the crowd of disciples and onlookers, toward these little suffering children, who were as innocent as dew but happened to be born in a time when the small and weak had no voice at all. I imagined Jesus looked into their suffering faces, possibly winking, and saying, “C’mere.” And so they did.
I’m willing to bet there were some suffering children who ran unbridled into His arms at full speed. I’m also willing to bet there were some sufferers who held back, timid, uncertain of the man before them and His designs. But the story indicates that they all eventually came to Jesus. There must have been something about Jesus that wooed them, something that drew them to Him.
Hospitality toward children is essential for the believer. Jesus said His kingdom belongs to “such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Unfortunately, our society can, at times, still struggle with impatience and indifference toward the small, vulnerable, and weak. In this way, children are still suffering, still defenseless.
Making straight the way for children to see and experience the love and blessing of Christ is important, grown-up work. In other words, it’s hard. Why? Well, that’s an easy answer. It’s hard because it often involves upsetting us adults and our adult plans. Regardless of your preferred Bible translation, this remains clear: If you don’t have room for the suffering children, then you don’t have room for the suffering Savior. So let them come. Amen.
Written by John Blase