None of us would like to be called ‘childish.’ That criticism implies selfishness, immaturity or even foolishness.
But Jesus had a different idea. He told his disciples, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”1 Jesus obviously had a reason for saying that.
Just about one week after the birth of our first son (yep, that’s him!), I was struck with new insights into our relationship with God as our heavenly Father. I remember one night, lying awake after having been up to nurse him. I should have been tired; the rigor of getting up several times a night was different and demanding. But my mind was racing with one revelation after another. “Oh, that is what Jesus meant when he said we need to be like little children. This precious person depends on me for everything,” I realized. “And he looks just like his father.” (None of our children looked anything like me when they were babies; maybe the Caucasian genes are weaker than the African ones…) One idea after the other about what it means to be ‘child-like’ kept me out of bed that night in order to try to get it down on paper.
Life went on, and I lost the paper where I had written those significant truths. But over the years of parenting and later in the study of child development, reflections about child-like faith keep reverberating in my heart.
Certainly not every characteristic of a child is commendable. Some scriptures encourage us to mature, grow up, and put away childish things. But even so, some of the characteristics of children ARE to be emulated! For example, they are credulous and trusting, completely dependent, free from worry, quick to forgive, totally honest, and pure in heart.
These and more are important truths of life in the Kingdom — the present reality of God’s reign on earth and His Kingship in our lives — that we need to understand from children. This starts a series of blog posts in which we will look to “little children,” to explore these Kingdom-based characteristics.