Our daughter refers to her room as “the party.”
And it’s a great party. She sits on her bed and asks us to pile on every one of her stuffed animals. They have a great time talking, rocking, singing, and imagining.
One night, I found Sharkey — a souvenir from the beach. Unfortunately, Sharkey found his way into our dog’s mouth not long after coming home. He was tattered and frayed, languishing in the bottom of the toy bin. I thought it would be fun to invite him to the party.
Our daughter wasn’t so enthusiastic. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that Sharkey wasn’t welcome.
“I don’t want him. He’s broken.”
I was shocked, and immediately felt a twinge of sympathy for the stuffed shark. I then felt a twinge of embarrassment for feeling a twinge of sympathy for a stuffed shark.
Pastoring Their Partiality
At two years old, had our daughter already learned to show partiality? By both nature and nurture, it seems she knew how to judge by outward appearance, even in playtime.
I know she is young. But I could not help but think about how my wife and I would shepherd her going forward.
- How will we walk with her when she inevitably notices someone who is touched by physical, developmental, or cognitive disability? (2 Samuel 9; John 9)
- What can we do to show honor to the poor, so she will learn to do the same? (James 2:1–10)
- How do we encourage her to reject the values of this world, where cultural and racial distinctions determine the worth of a person? (Romans 2:9–11)
- Will our parenting lead her to value human beings as made in the image of God, or value them only as contributors to society? For our daughter, will the youngest and oldest members of society be worth protecting? (Psalm 139:13–16; Genesis 9:6)
Each one of these issues is complex, and there is so much to consider for parents and those engaged in children’s ministry. But there is one truth I want to emphasize: If we want to see our children reject the sin of partiality, we must point them to their Impartial Savior.
An Impartial Savior
The Father emphasizes his own impartiality (Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7). He does not judge by outward appearance, but by the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Accomplished by the finished work of his beloved Son, and applied by the work of the Holy Spirit, this impartiality will color the lives of the children of God. God’s impartiality towards us transforms our treatment of others regarding race (Romans 2:9–11; Acts 10:34–43), socio-economic status (James 2:1–10), disability (John 9), and socio-spiritual influence (Galatians 2:6).
And so, as Christian parents, it is a delight to see our children conformed to the image of their Savior — one who draws close to the rejected and brokenhearted. Jesus comes near to those who were once far off, alienated, separated, told to “sit at my feet,” and those whose very lives are discarded because they provide for us no tangible benefits.
These same image-bearers have been brought near to our daughter because they have been brought near by the blood of Jesus. Our daughter must know that it is only through the person and work of Jesus that she is invited to the wedding party of the King.
What does this truth mean for her response to people whom the world, and even the church, shows partiality? Her only hope to live impartially before God and man is to be reconciled vertically before her Father through Jesus and horizontally to her brothers and sisters through Jesus. It means that my wife and I can walk with her towards those whom the effects of sin have broken down — physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.
For us, this reality means asking these questions and seeking the Spirit’s help to respond in a Christ-like way:
- Who are my daughter’s friends?
- Are our social and behavioral expectations of her biblical or societal?
- Do we avoid her awkward and difficult questions about other people or answer them in an honest, age-appropriate way?
- Are we modeling Christ’s impartial love for her — walking in his commandments and teaching her diligently in the word and through the natural rhythms and relationships of life (Deuteronomy 6:1–9)?
Loving the Broken
I picked up Sharkey from the floor. Looking at my daughter’s beautiful, yet now cold, blue eyes, I struggled to know what to say.
I handed the shark back to her and said, “Even though he’s not like the other toys, I love Sharkey.”
Holding Sharkey in her hands for a moment, her face lit up as she pulled him close, realizing that her daddy loved this toy. I asked her, “Can you introduce Sharkey to your other friends? Can he come to the party?”
Winnie the Pooh and Minnie Mouse were sitting at the right hand and at the left in my daughter’s kingdom. She chose Pooh, picking him up and putting him face to face with Sharkey.
“This is Sharkey. He’s broken . . .”
She cut a knowing glance at me.
“. . . but we love him.”
I walked out of her room, but her baby monitor was on, and I stopped as soon as I heard what was going on at the party.
She was singing “Jesus Loves Me.”