One of my favorite scenes out of the gospels is depicted in the book of Mathew. In Mathew 19:14, Jesus summons children who have come to observe and witness Him and learn from Him and just be in His presence. Jesus simply says,
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus is letting all around Him know that it is child-like innocence and openness that shall inhabit the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus is welcoming the children because they are innocent and open of mind and heart. He accepts all the children–regardless of age, race, culture, background, or gender. Innocence and openness can be found in any child and these children that are gathering and being summoned are representations of where the rest of us need to be spiritually. We need to be more open-minded, eager to learn and ask questions and seek knowledge and wisdom. We need open hearts that yearn to love one another and each other. We need to approach our spiritual journeys as children– eager and ready to explore and learn and share.
The beautiful image I have of Jesus is that He is a man who turns no one away from Him– so long as they are eager and willing to learn and listen and participate. He does not separate children or followers. He does not segregate or divide people. He does not accept some and not others based on appearance, age, gender, or race… if they come to Him and seek to learn from Him, he accepts them with open arms, open mind, and most assuredly and open heart.
Today there are many children and young teens who struggle to be their true and honest selves. Many are struggling to understand their identities and some are questioning their gender identities or sexual orientation. Some children are bravely coming out of the closet and identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Yet they face bullying, family neglect, abuse, and hate in school or even at home.
A child always has the right to their feelings and their affections! A child has a right to feel safe in their own homes, with their families and friends. A child has a right to a good education and a safe place to learn. No child should be hurt or abused or made to feel inferior because of who they are, who they show affection to, or how they might dress or express their gender identity.
It is important for LGBT adults and allies to be positive mentors and role models for LGBT kids and teens. It is important to teach children that they are all valued, all welcome, and all God’s precious creations. It is important that LGBT children and teens who are especially more vulnerable to depression and anxiety receive encouragement and support and positive affirmation of who they are. Acceptance and inclusiveness will teach an LGBT child that they can feel they are equal and valued and a part of the larger community.
LGBT kids and teens can contribute just as much as any other child or teen and should be encouraged to do so. Talent, skill, intelligence, and giftedness is not exclusive to only one type of kid– talent, skill, intelligence, and giftedness can be found in every child!
God knows this and Jesus welcomes and recognizes this! Why else would He make such a strong point in describing the kingdom of heaven as a gathering of children?