Have you ever thought about how different you are now compared to when you were as a kid?
I’m the oldest of four brothers and one sister. So I’ve had the wonderful experience of being around kids most of my life.
Right when I thought I was growing out of it too, I volunteered to teach a children’s ministry class. I’ve been doing that ever since. I love it.
Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed – and I’m sure you have too – is that even though kids look a little like the rest of us, just littler, they think totally differently.
- Children pretty much just want to have fun. They’re always exploring, always curious.
- Children don’t know how to plan well, and they can barely remember anything.
- Children get scared easily but not of things that scare most of us. And they never worry.
- Children don’t know how to lie or even when to try.
- Children trust people, sometimes too much.
- Children don’t know how to do many things for themselves, so they stick to copying big people.
Over the next few weeks, I’d like to write more about these differences. Before we get into all that, though, what about the Why question?
Why care how children think and act? What makes their perspective special for us?
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God…” -1 John 3:1
Throughout the Bible, God calls us His children. The metaphor is built right into Christianity. The children of Israel are God’s chosen people, and the rest of us – the Gentiles – have an opportunity to be adopted into the family.
I think this is awesome, but most of that is because of who God is. Like the cool thing about being a child of God is not that I’m a child but that I’m God’s. It’s an identity thing. As children of God, our identity is tied to His. We even get to inherit His blessing because of it.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” -Romans 8:16-17
Amazing, but that’s only one side of the equation.
In the Gospels, Jesus seems particularly interested in children, not just children of God but children in general.
“Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” -Luke 18:15-17
That’s a ridiculously strong statement, but we usually gloss over it like all the other metaphors we don’t really get. Think about it: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” That’s why we better pay attention. It’s how we’re told to receive the kingdom of God.
So the next question then is…
How can you and I receive the kingdom of God as a little child?
“Then a dispute arose among [the disciples] as to which of them would be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, ‘Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.’ ” -Luke 9:46-48
If you want the general answer, that’s it: the least will be great. That’s what this site is all about, becoming least. And while slaves sometimes have to learn to be least, children are least by nature. That’s why I think you and I can learn so much by exploring what it means to be child-like.
As Christians, we’ve heard all this. We’ve heard it so often it’s become a cliche. We know children are an extra special gift from God, all that jazz. But as Christians, how are we – in practical terms – patterning our lives after the children around us?
I’m not talking about taking our eyes off Jesus. I’m not talking about focusing on principles, like the principles of how children think and behave. I’m talking about looking to kids for an example of how to relate to the kingdom of God. They seem to have it down, and Jesus even acknowledged this. But when was the last time you and I actually made it a point to observe children to learn anything from them, especially anything spiritual?
That’s what I’d like to flesh out over the next few weeks here. What can we learn from children, and how can we receive them?
(1) Why do you think Jesus wanted us to receive the kingdom of God like children?
(2) What are some practical ways we can do that?