Receive one another
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. Mt. 18:5
What does this mean for us? It means that we receive and welcome all who belong to Christ, even if they aren’t like us or have a different personality or different social or economic status. Of all places, the church ought to be a place where the only thing that matters is being related to Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ Jesus have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28). Now Paul is not saying that belonging to Christ obliterates such distinctions; rather, he is saying that these distinctions, though real, are no barriers to fellowship in the kingdom of God.
By the way, the words of our Lord are not to be restricted to children. Every believer is to become like a child in terms of status. Throughout this text as our Lord refers to “one of these little ones,” we should understand this to mean to refer to believers in general.
The apostle James chided the believers in his day for making distinctions on the basis of wealth and personal appearance. He wrote, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay [fine] clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves and are become judges with evil thoughts?” (Jm. 2:1-4) We are not to make those kinds of distinctions in the church of God.
To welcome our brothers and sisters in Christ means that we “bear the infirmities of weak and not to please ourselves. Let everyone of us please his neighbor for his good to edification” (Rom. 15:1-2). And what is the motivation? “For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (ver. 3). It is on this basis, that Paul continues, “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (ver. 7).
To receive a fellow believer, therefore, means that they feel welcomed by you, that your heart is to serve them and to seek their well-being, and especially their ultimate good in Christ. And we do this no matter how unlike they are to us. In the end, the bond of fellowship is found in a common relationship to Jesus Christ, and that is more than enough.
The reason we are to welcome others is given in the text we are considering today, which is crucial: “whoever receives one such little child in my name, receives me." This is why we should not seek preeminence in the kingdom of heaven: because Christ personally identifies with each one who belongs to him. To despise (ver. 10) one of these little ones is to despise Christ. To exalt yourself over one of these little ones is to exalt yourself over Christ. This is not to say that a believer is Christ (that would be heresy), but that Christ owns the cause of each believer. He came to serve and minister to his people; who are we to arrogate ourselves over them? Let us therefore welcome each other, love each other, and serve each other.