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... on the way they [Jesus Christ's key followers circa AD 30] had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he [Jesus] sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."      Mark 9: 34-37


The children whose home was Haut de la Garenne in the past 60 years or more are much in the hearts and minds of Jersey folk these days. It seems that child abuse in various forms has darkened that building - a granite Victorian building with fabulous views over countryside and coast in beautiful Jersey.

Deep sadness arises for these children - one or more may have been murdered; many will have suffered in silence, surviving but seriously hurt.

All the national newspapers are reporting the investigations. BBC1 featured them on Newsnight. ITV national reports are being updated daily.

How strange it is, then, to see (above) that Jesus took a boy child in his arms for a reason that seems, at first blush, to be quite different from thoughts about child abuse. The context was an argument about who was the greatest of the 12 principal men whom Jesus had called to be his key followers.

Yes, the 12 were engaging in in-fighting. In-fighting about greatness, superiority, position, being first, staying first, having all others as servants.

There is, however, a deep connection between that and child abuse at Haut de la Garenne. Arguments about superiority and greatness stem entirely from self. The stronger the self-interest, the stronger the desire to please self, to gratify self. And, inevitably, to abuse others for that self-gratification, that pursuit of self-interest.

You see, to be the greatest (including the wealthiest) means that others are forced to be underneath you, to do your bidding...

So Jesus takes a boy child and brings him into the centre of the room. He takes him up in his arms and says to them "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all, and servant of all." This is not a short-term servanthood in order to achieve a later, long-term superiority. It is the permanent position of being servant of all that is the greatest possible position, the position of the supremo in Jesus' jurisdiction.

In Jersey as elsewhere, we are very accustomed to those who are first being the ones to receive things: honours, awards, prizes and so on. And rightly so.

What "receipts" then will those who are "servants of all" actually receive - in Jesus' jurisdiction? Well, Jesus decided to use the boy as an example. He said -

"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."

Who in Jersey is in the business of receiving vulnerable folk in Jesus' name? Let’s not be under any illusions about what's included in such a wonderful package.

But, most of all, let’s not be under any illusions about the dreadful power of self-interest. The lesson about the greatest being the servant of all is true - but remains unattractive.         Why?      Because we are all captive to self-interest……..Christian and non-Christian alike.

‘Many parents give their children everything except themselves.' (Anon.)
‘‘I do not know any subject that so much distresses me, humbles me and lays me in the dust, as the thought of my omissions. It is not what I have done about which I think so much as what I have not done.'  (C H Spurgeon, Pastor and Author, 1834-1892)
Richard Syvret

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