Become Like a Child

Children mattered to Jesus. He made them a priority. Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3) When the disciples tried to keep the children from distracting Jesus so he could talk to the adults, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15) What did he mean???

The transition from childhood to adulthood includes learning new information that changes behavior. Disobedience brings unpleasant consequences. Not all strangers can be trusted. Some things won’t come easily and will require hard work. Life is not always fair. Always getting what you want is rarely a good thing. Hard work does not always equal success.

But there are some other things that we choose to give up as we grow up, and I wonder if these are some of the things that Christ is referring to in that passage…the things we will get back in heaven. Children find utter joy in the simplest of things – stomping in rain puddles or spinning in circles. They are curious about things adults barely notice – they chase bubbles and are surprised every time they pop. They sample dog food and put food and fingers in places they don’t belong; they take things apart, and their favorite question is “why?”. They are exuberant about things adults take for granted – they can entertain themselves for hours with boxes or find delight in blowing dandelions. They can lose themselves in a song or a story. Children absolutely trust those they love. Children are spontaneous with their songs and their delight. Children are uninhibited by what their peers might think. They still believe in happily ever after and that anything is possible. They laugh easily and sleep deeply. Maybe it’s that kind of focus and single mindedness that Jesus is referring to. Jesus wouldn’t ask us to become like children if he didn’t want the passion and emotions that come with childhood.

Adults make religion complicated. We struggle to believe that the powerful God of the universe unconditionally loves us. We choose trust our imperfect judgment and frailties, and we find ourselves separated from the protection and power of the God who sacrificed his son to save us.

Perhaps what Jesus is asking us is to rediscover the simple trust and unconditional love a child has for a parent he trusts. Perhaps he is asking us to believe that his power in us can achieve anything. Perhaps he is asking us to take delight in the eternal home he is preparing for us, no matter what our current situation looks like. Perhaps he wants you to seek his face and learn to love him as you mature in your understanding of his character. May you rediscover great joy and peaceful rest as you learn to trust the one who utterly loves you.

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