At least once or twice a month my daughter relates how a customer at the restaurant where she manages blew up at her or another staff member, or how a customer devoured 95% of the meal and then claimed it was inedible and demanded a refund. Recently my wife told me about a man who was so furious with the city that he told those who were waiting on him that he hoped their houses would burn down. I must admit that the reality of original sin was driven home to me every Christmas season that I worked for JC Penney, waiting on impatient or greedy customers. We often cringe when we see or hear bad behavior, especially when kids are present. We don’t want them to pick up such bad attitudes or mimic such bad behaviors. We encourage them to stay away from such people.

“The State of Humiliation” is what our theologians have called the process by which the Son of God became and lived as a human being on this planet. Once born, the Son of God learned about this world much the same way that you and I learned about it. Some knowledge came by watching other people and the mistakes they made. Some knowledge we gained firsthand, drawing our own conclusions from what we experienced. The world that Jesus lived in was not much different from ours in this respect: thanks to our sinful nature, people can treat others pretty badly.

What did Jesus think when he saw similar bad behaviors in his childhood? How did those things affect him? What did our world look like as he saw it through the eyes of a child? Because we have no written record of most of his thoughts or experiences, we don’t know. But because bad behaviors witnessed in childhood often carry influence into adulthood, we can make one observation: the sin he witnessed while growing up didn’t extinguish his love for sinners. They did not cause him to give up on humanity and live his life as a hermit. If anything, those things drew him to sinners, rather than repel him. From what the Gospels tell us, Jesus enjoyed spending a lot of time in the company of those whom society’s rejects. They were people from whom responsible parents told their children to stay away. I take that attitude to be reflective of his divine nature. “While we were yet sinners,” Paul says, “Christ died for us.” Thanks be to God that what our Lord saw of the human condition through the eyes of a child did not keep him from hearing our prayer: “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray.”