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Let the little children come to me…for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
I have three daughters.
As father to these amazing girls, I’ve found that two stories in the Bible consistently bring out the strongest emotions in me.
The first is a story of a dad named Jairus. He’s a religious leader who pleads with Jesus to cure his daughter (Luke 8). Jesus agrees to go with him, but along the road they keep getting interrupted.
I find myself in Jairus’ sandals, screaming inside for everyone to just get out of the way. Before they make it to the house, though, they’re interrupted again. It turns out they’re too late. Jairus is told that his beloved daughter is dead.
Jesus simply looks at this dad and tells him to believe. So they continue on to the house. Jesus interrupts the funeral preparations to promptly raise the girl from the dead and present her back to mom and dad.
Yikes – I have a hard time even typing that without choking up. What do you say to the man who gives you back your daughter?
The other story that gets-me-every-time is about a servant girl (2 Kings 5). I don’t like to think of what she went through. Torn away from all that was familiar, she’s a victim of child-trafficking. She’s enslaved and taken to a foreign land. I imagine her crying at night, struggling to learn a new language, longing for home, desperate for a friend.
Now the closest thing to a father in her life is Naaman, a war hero and leader of the armies that decimated her people. He is a man to be respected and feared. And he’s a man with a secret. Naaman has tried to keep his leprosy hidden, but she sees.
This “simple” slave girl amazes me. She not only holds firm to the faith of her homeland, but she works and serves her masters in ways that earn their respect. And most incredibly of all, this girl willingly chooses to share her hope of healing with those who took what was most precious to her. Although she’s living among an enemy people, forced to serve the leader of armies that wiped out her parents, she offers them grace.
Was she tempted to keep this good news to herself – seeing in her master’s leprosy the justice of God? Maybe…but ultimately, she chose to show mercy. She tugs on the sleeve of her mistress and whispers “If only my master would see the prophet in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
We know next to nothing about this girl, not even her name. But she’s the catalyst for a pretty terrific story. A story that Jesus himself references in his inaugural address (Luke 4).
There are a number of stories in the Bible of children who display great faith. There’s little Samuel hearing the voice of the Lord, fearless young David the giant-killer, and that boy whose meager lunch was multiplied to feed a crowd. But we’d be hard pressed to find a better example of enduring faith and generous love than this unnamed slave girl.
Her faith is what I think of when I remember Jesus’ words that the kingdom of God “belongs to such as these.” It’s the kind of faith that I want to instill in my daughters – one that lasts even in a foreign land, even when her mother and I are long gone; one that gains a hearing; and one that leads them to even share love and compassion with their enemies.
Lord, ground our children in a faith that will survive any hardship. Let their love for you outlive us and testify to the abounding mercy found in your kingdom.