Posted on May 28, 2014
#56: Like a Child
It had been a long day, begun by a troubling phone call that left me rushed to get to work, then several hours filled with unusually difficult, demanding customers. I came home with head aching and shoulders tight. Sinking into the sofa, I leaned back and closed my eyes. Then two small arms circled my tense neck, and a tiny cheek pressed to my face. My little granddaughter snuggled against me and stayed there, quietly loving away the day’s pressures. Within minutes, my headache was gone.
Cuddling a child is the best stress-buster I know! Apparently, Jesus thought so too.
Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our study of Jesus’ life through the lens of Mark’s gospel. Read Mark 10:13-16. The same account is also found in Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17.
These verses contain one of my favorite snapshots of Jesus. In the midst of His mission, on His way to Jerusalem for the death-defying business of taking mankind’s sin to the cross, we find Him snuggling and blessing little children.
The Twelve were annoyed at parents bringing babies to Jesus. “How dare they bother the Master with such trivialities!” They tried to send the parents away. (Note that no disciple restricted the Pharisees’ access to Jesus or ran interference with those “important” leaders.)
Jesus stopped the disciples cold. Mark says He was “indignant, angry, much displeased.” “Let the little ones come to Me,” Jesus commanded. “Stop preventing them. My Father’s kingdom belongs to such as these!” As He gathered the children into His arms to bless them, He made a statement we’d do well to consider. “I speak truth to you: anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will by no means enter it.”
Like a little child. How do we receive the kingdom like a little child? We need to know because if we don’t, we’re in danger of missing out on it. Here are a few ideas. We should be:
• Humble. In contrast with the scheming Pharisees, and even the ambitious Twelve, the open loving hearts of kids must have been so refreshing to Jesus. He looks for the same in us: a lack of concern with status, achievements, or agendas. We don’t grab His kingdom as our due; we gratefully receive it, aware that we’re undeserving.
• Faith-filled. As small children, we’re innately trusting. Then comes the sad moment when we first learn that people don’t always keep their promises; after a few disappointments, we become wary. By adulthood we scarcely trust anyone, including God. The more letdowns we’ve suffered, the harder it may be to recover childlike faith. Yet faith is essential to pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6) and necessary to receiving the kingdom like a child. Faltering faith is strengthened
1) through focusing on God’s love (1 John 4:16-18a)
2) through time in His Word (Romans 10:17; 15:4)
3) through watching God work in our trials (James 1:2-5)
4) and through prayer that recognizes His answers (1 John 5:14-15).
Jude wrote, “You, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love. . . .” (Jude 20-21a). Keep faith!
• Generous. To a child, a fistful of dandelions is as good as a dozen long-stemmed roses. Kids know that the value of a gift isn’t measured in dollars but in heart. They give freely—gleefully! Childlike people are givers who don’t keep accounts. Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b)
• Innocent. Little children are quick to see good. They’re unsuspicious and guilt-free. They accept forgiveness as easily as they give it, then they let go without holding grudges. Kids have short memories, forgetting wrongs, a trait most of us adults could benefit from.
• Unguarded. We adults find it necessary to warn kids against strangers. Why? Because they openly love and accept people, without fear, without reservation, without prejudice. How would our lives and our churches change if we did the same?
• Teachable. Children are curious. They ask questions, they memorize, they try new things. Consequently, they’re always learning. As adults, we convince ourselves we can no longer remember or learn. (Just ask an adult Sunday School class to memorize a Bible verse, and hear the excuses start!) To receive the kingdom like a child we need to be inquisitive about it, hungry to know more from the Word, eager to hide God’s Word in our hearts, teachable.
• Obedient. When the boy Samuel heard God’s voice calling in the stillness of the night, he responded, “Speak, Lord; your servant is listening”—and not just listening, but ready to carry out God’s words. Children are expected to be obedient, and love feeling their parents’ pleasure. Our Father is pleased by and proud of our obedience, also.
• Dependent. The most unprotected, resourceless, socially-powerless people of Jesus’ time were children—especially orphans (still true today, in many parts of the world). For God to adopt us into His kingdom, receiving us as His own beloved children, should make us cry out with John, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called His children! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1) We are God’s dependents—cherished, protected, provided for, and invited to partner with our Father in the life of His kingdom now and eternally.
• Growing. We’ve got to distinguish between being childlike and childish! There’s nothing Christlike about immature, selfish petulance. The church doesn’t need, nor does God’s kingdom welcome, spiritual brats. A healthy child is constantly moving toward maturity, growing and developing. So must we be.
• Unafraid. There is a raw courage to children. If you doubt it, hang around a critically ill child for a while and be awed by his lion-hearted spirit. Kids just accept that, one way or another, all will be well. They’re resilient; if circumstances twist, they adjust—not to say they’re never hurt, but that they find a way to bounce back. If we’re to receive the kingdom like a child, we must be courageous and unafraid—trusting that, one way or another, God will work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
In these and dozens of other ways, childlikeness is the key to receiving God’s kingdom. Along the way, we trade stress, selfish ambition, pride, guilt, and fear for peace—peace with God, with others, and within ourselves—a great exchange.
Share your thoughts. What other qualities of childlikeness do you see as vital to people of God’s kingdom?
© Diane McLoud 2014