On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion, which killed eleven men, eventually resulted in five million gallons of oil leaking into the gulf waters. Carl-Henric Svanberg, the British Petroleum Chairman, declared, “We care about the small people.” And after meeting with President Obama, Svanberg doubled down on the concept: “He is frustrated because he cares about the small people, and we care about the small people.” It is doubtful the President would have used that terminology. Svanberg himself was simply speaking as a European, and he was trying to refer to ordinary citizens.
But it didn’t play well in the US. Even if we lack wealth or social status, we take great offense when someone says we are small. The resulting firestorm led Svanberg eventually to apologize for his “clumsy” apology for the oil spill.
But was he wrong? Here we are, in truth, these tiny human beings set against the backdrop of the vast universe. We feebly protest that we are not small. Incredibly, the Almighty God—who sees just how small we are—still takes intimate interest in the mundane cares and details of our lives!
Our smallness, if understood properly, may be a virtue and a source of great blessing:
“[Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4).
In God’s mind, smallness does not equal insignificance.
Which brings us to the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer… What is the significance of Jesus telling his humble disciples that they should call the Almighty God their Father?
Martin Luther writes in the Small Catechism: “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that we may pray to him as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father.”
Addressing God as your Father with sincerity of heart and mind assumes several things are true: You love him. You trust him. You serve him gladly. You want him in your life. You know, with all confidence, that he wants you in his life.
Humility, as a harsh reality forced upon us, adds up to a miserable existence. But humility before a loving God? This is acceptance of a blessed reality. For you who live in Christ today, your smallness bears no relation to insignificance. You are just a small child, but you are the daughter or son of the King!
Rev. Brent Juliot is Contributing Editor of F&F magazine and Pastor of Living Hope Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin.