Protecting the Little Ones
Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.
In my work with Dove’s Nest and abuse crisis, I’ve seen church leaders give hours of their time to individuals who have sexually offended. Unfortunately, they sometimes overlook the care of victims/survivors, vulnerable adults, and children. According to Boz Tchividjian, founder of GRACE, more than two-thirds of child sexual abuse prosecutors report that pastors appear in court to support perpetrators, not victims.
Can our care and compassion ever be misguided? I am learning that when we interpret “little ones” in Matthew 10:42 as “least of these,” we sometimes forget where an important focus should be. Jesus commands us to give a cup of cold water to the little ones. Theologian Victor Vieth, among others, says that Jesus’ use of the term “little ones” refers to children. Children are by nature vulnerable, and our focus should be on their safety and restoration.
God’s compassion extends to victims and offenders. God’s love is big enough for that. When my eldest daughter was three years old, a new baby sister suddenly disrupted her life. I explained to her that my love as a mother was more than enough for both of my daughters. But, I also had to tell her that sometimes her baby sister—a tiny infant—would need more care. Little ones need lots of attention.
When churches face abuse situations or conflicts, remember the little ones. With compassion, we can serve them and prioritize their safety and care.
Anna Groff is the executive director of Dove's Nest
First published in Rejoice!, Mennomedia, 2020, https://store.mennomedia.org/Rejoice-C1272.aspx