Foreword by John Ortberg

 

Someone once asked novelist George MacDonald why he enjoyed writing stories about princesses. “Because every little girl is a princess,” he said.

The person asking him the question was confused and wondered what he meant. To clarify, MacDonald posed his own question: “What is a princess?”

“The daughter of a king,” the man answered.

“Very well, then,” replied MacDonald. “Every little girl is a princess.” Why? Because McDonald believed that every one of us is a child of a King.

That’s why Greg and Jimmy have written this book. They believe that little lives count, that children matter enormously, that they are sacred and should be prized. Though this might seem obvious to some, this truth has not been self-evident to the human race for most of our history. Roman writer Seneca wrote that in ancient Rome, children who were malformed or unhealthy typically were drowned. The Romans killed children who were unwanted or of the wrong gender. Abandoned children were left on a pile of dirt or dung, and though most of them died, occasionally they were rescued, only to live out their days as slaves. This was such a common experience for children at that time that hundreds of names in the ancient world were variations of the Greek word kopros, which means “dung.”

Yet even as children were being abandoned at the garbage dump, a quiet revolution had begun. A new movement of people called “the Christians” followed a man who did not despise children or use them as slaves. He took children into his arms and blessed them. He taught his followers that unless a person becomes like a little child, they cannot live in his kingdom, the kingdom of heaven. In the ancient world, where children were frequently ignored and abandoned, no one else praised or valued little children the way this man did.

These early Christians followed a man they believed to be God in the flesh, and yet they believed that God had come to earth and made himself nothing—nothing but an ordinary baby. They were radically transformed by the truth that if God himself could become a humble, dependent infant, then every human life—even the lives of infants and children—was of enormous value. These first followers of Jesus began the practice of giving every child a “godparent,” people who promised to raise the children and not abandon them if their parents died. They created orphanages, homes where little children without parents could live instead of fending for themselves. Followers of Jesus know that small matters. That children matter to God.

The early church forbade the practice of abandoning children by exposure as well as the practices of abortion and infanticide. Their motive, unlike Rome, was not to provide the state with more workers. In the words of one ancient writer, they saved children because “all babies are glorious before God.” The early church changed the culture around them, beginning a new and unprecedented era for children. A book that covers this subject is simply titled When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity.

And yet . . .

Today, suffering falls most heavily on little children. In this book, Greg and Jimmy describe our world, a world in which thousands of children die from preventable diseases each day. We live in a world where illiteracy cripples a child’s future, where isolation cripples a child’s spirit, where disease cripples a child’s body, and where abandonment cripples a child’s heart.

But these children are not alone. God has a special place in his heart for them, and God has created a special way of caring for them. You and me. If you care about the God who came as a child, then you must also care for the children he loves. As they share stories and examples of how to love children, Jimmy and Greg aren’t simply alerting us to the dangers that children face. Yes, this book speaks about heartbreak and struggle, but it is also a book about hope. More has been done in recent years to alleviate the poverty that hurts children than the world thought possible a generation ago. And what if that work might be carried even further? What if we were able to see it through to completion? What if God might be calling you to be part of this cause?

And the goal is not simply the elimination of physical poverty. There is a poverty of spirit that robs children of hope and goodness and joy, and the gospel speaks powerfully to this need. This is why the church was born.

This is a book about small matters, which are really large matters that are far greater than our greatest dreams. God has used the small things of this world to do his work, and he continues to do this today. In Jesus’ kingdom, the first are last and the least are the greatest, the servants are the heroes and the small are the biggest winners of all.

—John Ortberg, author and pastor