July 23, 2014.
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away
When you think of children, what characteristics do you think about? Naïve, annoying, caring, unconditional love, troublesome? I am probably not the best person to ask about children as I may not have the utmost confidence in their good mannerisms; however, there are certain characteristics that children have that we honestly could take a lesson from.
Children in the days of Jesus were viewed much like today in that they shouldn’t be involved in adult matters, such as the teaching of Jesus, and provide only distractions and annoyances. This is why the disciples tried to push them away, rebuking the parents for bringing the children out to see Jesus. But Jesus does something that is unexpected and allowed the children to come to him, making the statement “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” What did he mean?
In the chapter before, Jesus is questioned about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, where he says this:
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
There is something to be said about having the mind of a child when it comes to the kingdom of God. But what is it? I don’t know if I have the full answer, but I do think there are some parallels from children that we can apply to our Christian walk.
First, children tend to exhibit an unconditional love for the people around them. Obviously this doesn’t apply to all children, but the general statement can be made. No matter who you are or what you do, a child is probably going to like you. What if we applied this almost carefree love to our lives? What if we were genuinely interesting in other people like children are?
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus makes this famous statement in the book of John, but what I find interesting is how he begins the statement. “Little children…” Is he not drawing a parallel to what kind of love we should have for one another here? I think this is a reasonable assumption. Indeed, New Testament writers such as Paul and John write in their letters to the churches “little children” or “my little children.” I think this is a notable characteristic that children have and we need to pick up on to share the gospel of Christ in an efficient manner.
Another characteristic that children have that we need to emulate is their naïveté. Listen to what Paul writes:
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”
(1 Corinthians 14:20)
There is certainly a time when we need to be mature in our thinking, but that time is not when it comes to sin. When it comes to evil, Paul tells us to be infants. I was listening to a sermon a while back that asked the question of whether it was better to be evil and then really good, or to alway be pretty good. Whereas a Christian with a backstory that is rooted in sin has a good testimony for the power of Christ to change a person’s life, the conclusion was that you did not have to experience sin to know that it is bad. We should not be ashamed of being naïve about sin. As Christians, that should be a joy, a bonus, if you will. I think the characteristic we can pull from children in this instance is their innocence. Innocence is needed among the church.
Jesus seemed to have so much care for little children. He makes some very pointed statements about them such as:
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
I believe that we should give children more credit than we do. There is a lot that we can learn from the way they act and the way they forgive that will teach us about the kingdom of Heaven. Next time we see a child in church, instead of being annoyed that they are screaming during the sermon or grabbing you leg as you are trying to sing, maybe we can see the beauty of God in them and some characteristics that we ourselves should imitate. To see the love in their eyes is to see Christ Jesus.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 10, 18-19, I John 2.
Grace and peace.