The Child in the Midst

And he came to Capernaum: and, being in the house, he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them; and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

— Mark 9:33-37

To receive a child in the name of God is to receive God himself. How to receive him? As alone he can be received—by knowing him as he is. To know him is to have him in us.

Although the true heart may at first be shocked at the truth, as Peter was shocked when he said, “That be far from thee, Lord,” yet will it, after a season, receive it and rejoice in it. Let me then ask, do you believe in the Incarnation? And if you do, let me ask further, Was Jesus ever less divine than God? I answer for you, Never. He was lower, but never less divine. Was he not a child then? You answer, “Yes, but not like other children.”  I ask, “Did he not look like other children?” If he looked like them and was not like then, the whole was a deception, a masquerade at best. I say he was a child, whatever more he might be. God is man, and infinitely more. Our Lord is, and ever shall be, divinely childlike. He could never have been a child if he would ever have ceased to be a child, for in him the transient found nothing. Childhood belongs to the divine nature. Obedience, then, is as divine as Will, Service as divine as Rule. How? Because they are one in their nature; they are both a doing of the truth. The love in them is the same. The Fatherhood and the Sonship are one, save that the Fatherhood looks down lovingly, and the Sonship looks up lovingly. Love is all. And God is all in all. He is ever seeking to get down to us—to be the divine man to us. And we are ever saying, “that be far from thee, Lord!” We are careful, in our unbelief, over the divine dignity, of which he is too grand to think.

Commentary

                                          by James House

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 32:36-40

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

(John 13:34-35)

Thus, we are commanded to love God, and to do so by showing love to all of His children. How are we to love them? " As I have loved you" - Jesus, as always, is our example.

Jesus lifted others' burdens, honored his parents, fed the hungry, visited the lonely, showed humility, saw the good and the potential in others, showed gratitude, and forgave others. Young children are always very eager to do such things - to feel the joy of being charitable in every way toward others. It is our challenge to retain and perfect these divine childlike inclinations and avoid dulling them.

As all people are children of God, we should receive all as God. And to receive God we must come to know Him perfectly through perfecting obedience, and, like a child, be eager to love everyone in their needs and in their current conditions.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(Matthew 25:34-40)

Let us not forget:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

(James 1:22)

George MacDonald's works are full of wonderful lessons on how to receive children and retain (or regrow) our childlike natures. Here I share several quotes from George MacDonald which relate in various ways to today's passage, " To receive a child in the name of God is to receive God himself" :

"We cannot make ourselves believe, we cannot make ourselves love, but we can obey, and then love and trust will grow of themselves."

"Loving God and my neighbour[:] as these are THE two commandments of life, so they are in themselves THE pleasures of life."

"I am the child of God, an heir of the Infinite, with the hope of being made perfectly righteous, loving like God Himself"

"There is a childhood into which we have to grow, just as there is a childhood which we must leave behind; a childlikeness which is the highest gain of humanity, and a childishness from which but few of

those who are counted the wisest among men, have freed themselves in their imagined progress towards the reality of things."

"The reward of parents who have tried to be good, may be to learn, with a joyous humility from their children."

"That which is would be more. The eternal root causes us to long for more existence, more being, more of God's making, less of our own unmaking. Our very desire after rest comes of life, life so strong that it recoils from weariness. The imperfect needs to be more—must grow. The sense of growth, of ever enlarging existence, is essential to the created children of an infinite Father; for in the children the paternal infinite goes on working—by them recognizable, not as infinitude, but as growth."

"It is marvellous how children can reach the heart of the truth at once. Their utterances are sometimes entirely concordant with the results arrived at through years of thought by the earnest mind—results which no mind would ever arrive at save by virtue of the child-like in it. "

"As this world of delight surrounds and enters your bodily frame, so does God surround your soul and live in it. To be at home with the awful source of your being, through the child-like faith which he not only permits, but requires, and is ever teaching you, or rather seeking to rouse up in you, is the only cure for such feelings as those that trouble you. Do not say it is too high for you. God made you in his own image, therefore capable of understanding him."

"What a thing it is to please a child!"

"It is indeed a mercy that we were not born grown men, with what we consider our wits about us. They are blinding things those wits we gather"

"To cease to wonder is to fall plumb-down from the childlike to the commonplace--the most undivine of all moods intellectual. Our nature can never be at home among things that are not wonderful to us."

"But God could save them without us."

"Yes; but what would become of us then? God is so good to us, that we must work our little salvation in the earth with him. Just as a father lets his little child help him a little, that the child may learn to be and to do, so God puts it in our hearts to save this life to our fellows, because we would instinctively save it to ourselves, if we could. He requires us to do our best."