by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-3 ESV
I have witnessed incredible courage in my times – bravery on the battlefield of childhood.
Times when adults stood around muttering that “someone should do something” until a child, full of love, tugged the sword out of their stone hearts and became king of love and reason.
An eight-year-old alone in a room of professionals, speaking up to say, “We’re not safe at home. Please don’t make us go back there.” Then, taking up her mother’s hand, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I love you, but you’re not protecting us.”
A ten-year-old boy who leapt to his feet in a living room crowded with adults and shouted, “Ha! Mom, I knew that was wrong, even though you said it was okay for me to ride in the trunk of the car. It is wrong, isn’t it?”
I nodded my head as I watched his mind make connections like a pinball machine the moment after the quarter drops. “And, I bet it’s not okay for me steal stuff for you! Mom, I think you believe you love me, but you’re doing it way wrong.”
Then, he turned to the relatives sitting in the room. “And you guys! How come you aren’t saying anything to her? I’m a kid. Grown-ups are supposed to watch out for kids.”
Or the thirteen-year-old girl who sat across a kitchen table and looked me square in the eye. “Why should I tell you anything about my hopes and dreams? You’re like the fifteenth old lady to sit in this kitchen and act like you know something that might help us. Why don’t you ask my dad his hopes and dreams? If you start working on that, we might actually get somewhere, but that’s a lot harder than sittin’ with a thirteen-year-old, isn’t it?”
Sometimes love is a hard conversation.
Don’t tell a kid in your ministry you love them in the name of Jesus, unless you’re willing to sit with their parents and talk when you suspect things aren’t right at home.
Don’t tell a young woman you love her, and then suggest she stay quiet when she says that a church leader made her feel uncomfortable with his words or his hands.
Don’t tell a young wife to go home, pray, and be a better wife, when she confides about her husband’s unexpected rages, drinking, pornography, or abusive words.
When your friend gossips in the guise of a prayer request, don’t just walk away and feel self-righteous that “at least you’re not like her.”
To be like Jesus is to love like a child.
A child sees no conflict between loving someone and telling them the truth.
A child sees no dissonance in loving a person and saying hard things to them.
A child knows that if someone doesn’t stand up to people doing wrong things, they’ll keep doing them.
A child knows how to love someone and still tell them they have to stop hurting other people.
Children learn from the people doing wrong to silence themselves, to hide, to cower, and to embrace helplessness. Jesus calls out the child in us to unlearn these ways for these are the ways of the sinful world.
Jesus demonstrated that sometimes love is a hard conversation. Just look at what He said to the Woman at the Well, the hypocritical Pharisees, or to Judas at the Last Supper.
Let love incite us to speak truth into our own lives and to choose love even when it would be easier to stay silent. This is the way of light. Sin, pain, and all manner of evil flourish in the darkness.
Our words can be light, against which, the darkness will not prevail.
About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.
Join the conversation: Can you recall a time when a child fearlessly expressed the truth?