“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:13-14)
Before this, Jesus “…called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.'” (Matthew 18:2-5).
I recently quoted these verses at my son’s funeral, and they have been in my heart ever since. They remind me how bright a little light can shine.
Like the disciples, our perception of greatness often needs to be checked. The context of these passages reveals that the disciples were privately jockeying for position and debating who would be the greatest among them. When Jesus challenged them, they became silent because they were ashamed (Mark 9:33-34).
Jesus also knows our secret discussions. He knows that we often believe that we must impress others with our vast knowledge or great skill or employ grand gestures and mighty works, like those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Yet Paul reminded the Corinthian church that such great works were nothing compared to true love. His description of love begins with these words, “love is patient, love is kind…”. But that sounds too simple, naive, and little. Right? Wrong! We forget that God does His best work through the little things. A life consistently demonstrating the “little things” like kindness and patience can make a big difference.
To help His disciples understand this, He showed them a child. He has also helped me understand this through a child, through the example of my son. Although he was just a 7-year-old boy, his impact on others has been evident to me in the last couple of weeks.
His impact was evident in the hundreds of people who came to pay their respects at the visitation. The line at the calling hours extended into the parking lot. Around 800 people waited patiently for hours in that line.
His impact was evident in the packed auditorium at the funeral. People filled every pew, and chairs had to be set up for everyone to have a seat. The local schools closed so students and teachers could attend. Even more surprising is that the funeral service now has 4,676 views online!
His impact was evident among those who chose to “Wear Blue for Andrew,” which included many nearby schools. It was also apparent on Fist-Bump Friday at Pikeville Elementary when the UPike Football team showed up in custom T-shirts with his name on them. They also honored him on game day with stickers on their helmets and named him an honorary Captain.
His impact was evident through the countless posts online where people shared their special memories. Parents hope and pray that their children listen to the lessons they are trying to teach them. While my heart remains broken, it also soars as I hear story after story about my son’s kindness to others and willingness to help those around him.
One day in the lunchroom at school, Andrew quietly and discretely got the principal’s attention. When he walked over, Andrew asked, in a whisper, if he could give his lunch to a little boy at another table who wasn’t eating. He was worried that the boy didn’t have food for lunch. It turned out that the little boy had gotten in trouble before lunch and was pouting about it, but the story illustrates the kind and thoughtful person Andrew was.
His classmates shared how Andrew would help them whenever they needed help with their schoolwork and how he was a friend to everyone. Many of the children told their teachers that Andrew was their best friend. One teacher said she had never heard so many kids say that about one child. A local TV station ran a story about Andrew and his school with the headline, “Better because of Andrew.” Superintendent David Trimble said, “He made a difference in this world. I think about our family here–our family was better because of Andrew… I think Andrew was really good at the things that we sometimes call ‘little’ that are just so giant.”. Principal Glenda Adkins added, ”He was just such a great kid and brought a lot of light to our hallways and to our classrooms.”
I never imagined one little life could impact so many. A bulletin board in the hallway of our church building now reads, “If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.” As I read that, I realized that is what Andrew did. So many people have mentioned his smile. In a letter to the district, Mr. Trimble said, “This young man had a smile that truly brightened our classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, school buses, and playground, and he had as kind of a heart that you will find anywhere.” It seems like such a small thing, but the world needs more smiles, kindness, and love. When you think about it, that’s not such a little thing, is it?
We chose the name Andrew for our son because the Apostle Andrew was known for bringing people to Jesus (see John 1:40-41, 6:8-9, 12:21). We envisioned that he would follow me into the ministry one day. Never for a moment did we imagine that the greatest sermon he would ever preach would be his short, beautiful life. His life, not his death, has touched thousands of hearts! And it reminds me that the so-called “little things” matter.
“Better because of Andrew” is not just a cute slogan; I know it to be true. He made a difference and continues to make a difference.