You can tell a lot about the speaker and the speech by the opening line. If you hear the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages,” you are probably listening to a circus ringmaster introducing the big show. If you hear, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here,” it is probably a minister welcoming people to a religious observance. But if you read the words, “Little children,” then you may be reading First John. Eight times throughout the epistle, John addresses early Christians in this way and therein underscores his central message of love.
But it’s more than that. First John was written during the time of the Roman Empire, which was built on a strict hierarchy of power. At the top was Caesar, followed by the government leaders, the militia, and so on, all the way down the ladder. And at the bottom of this hierarchy—even below women—were children. They were often bought and sold as slaves, moved from family to family as mediums of exchange. They had no rights of their own and were the least of all Roman life.
Then along came Jesus, who told the disciples that the kingdom belongs to them. That alone was a defiant message against systems of oppression and abuse. But it was also a theological game changer. God favors not the powerful—but the powerless. God sides with the marginalized and the disenfranchised.
When the author calls followers of Jesus “little children,” it is not just a term of endearment. It is a reminder that during hardship, they have not been forgotten by God. They may be devalued and dehumanized by others, but God loves them and favors them. And guess what? You are a little child of God too.

Dear God, I am grateful to be your child. Thank you for loving me, even when it is hard for me to love myself. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read John 10:11-18

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Lectionary Week
April 16–22, 2018
Scripture Overview

This week’s readings open with a confrontation in Acts between Peter and John and some of the religious leaders. Peter speaks in harsh terms to the leaders, stating that they had killed Jesus; yet by the power of Jesus’ name, a man who could not walk has been healed. By that same name spiritual healing happens as well. The other three passages employ the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalmist declares, and the shepherd cares for all our needs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. First John repeats this imagery. Jesus proved his love when he lay down his life for us. If we truly love one another, we also ought to sacrifice in tangible ways.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Psalm 23. How comfortable do you feel about God’s provision for your life? Do you believe you have enough?
• Read Acts 4:5-12. When have you gotten into difficulty for exercising your Christian faith and values? If never, why not?
• Read 1 John 3:16-24. The writer notes that we may find being called sheep unbecoming. He goes on to mention that the epistle of John addresses followers of Christ as “little children.” Would you prefer to be a sheep or a child? Why?
• Read John 10:11-18. Which of your assumptions about God have been turned upside down? How did this come about?

Respond by posting a prayer.