Imagine that you were part of a church that really took Luke 9:46-48 to heart.
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” – Luke 9
In this church, the highest priority is children’s church, training Sunday School teachers for children, getting children involved, training parents in how to treat children, speaking to children, and making sermons child-friendly. In fact, single adults and the aged feel neglected at your imagined church, because everything is done for the children!
Would this church be obeying Jesus’ message in this passage?
No. Because the text ends this way: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
In a church where children are valued the most, and singles and the aged the least, people will need to remember how singles and the aged are great. In a church where people speak of how men should lead and teach and women should submit and be quiet, the greatness of women should be honoured:
… those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. – 1 Cor. 12
In the 1st century AD world (the world the New Testament was written to), the least-in-worldly-eyes and so the-greatest-according-to-Jesus was often women, which is perhaps why Peter instructs:
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. – 1 Pet. 3:7
The focus of this sentence is not “the wife is the weaker vessel.” I believe wives were called the weaker vessel because at the time they had fewer rights before the law, less education and died earlier when death in childbirth was still common. The focus is an instruction to honour your wife. This instruction could not be understood by worldly power-hungry eyes, but only through Christ-like eyes that lift (thereby honouring) those who are lower.
What happens when the body is successful with this? When Christians constantly start to give honour to whoever among them is honoured the least? When whichever Christian voice the church listens the least to, is the one they start to learn from?
We get true Biblical equality. Between old and young. Between different races. Between church members with more or less status and money in the outside world. Between those with different ideas on non-central doctrines. Between men and women.
Here is the best thing about equality like this: As the church start lifting the lowest until they are no longer the lowest, and then the ex-lowest and the rest of the members start lifting the now-lowest, and the process repeats itself, the whole church is lifted. We all end up with more honour. As we recognize and develop the greatness of “the one who is least among” us, the whole church become greater!