Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Four Reasons To Be Like a Child

Matthew 18:3 "I assure you," [Jesus] said, "unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus' disciples had been arguing about who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom. It's so easy to look at them and scoff at their silliness. Don't we do the same thing, though? Don't we judge our lives and the lives of others in the church by how much we've done for the kingdom? It's especially easy for those of us in public ministry to look at our accomplishments and think that Jesus has a special place reserved for us because of all we did for him.

Jesus turns this argument on its head when he says, "Unless you're like a child, you won't even ENTER the kingdom." The magnitude of this saying of Jesus bears investigation into the qualities of children that Jesus loves and how we should pray for grace to exhibit those qualities in our own lives.

Let's take a look at four qualities:
  1. Children are dependent. Especially when they are young, children are dependent on their parents for everything: feeding, protecting, wiping dirty mouths and bottoms, tying shoes, buckling carseats. As they get older, their dependency changes but doesn't really diminish. It goes from physical dependence to healthy emotional inter-dependence (not to be confused with an unhealthy patterns of co-dependence). The truth is that children are never fully independent emotionally from the ones who cared for them when they were physically dependent for their every need. There's a whole other post there, but I will leave that to the experts.
  2.  Children are expectant. I'm just going to say it. My daughter, Vivi, has more faith than I do. Of course, her faith is more related to ice cream than it is to God's provision or blessing. If she asks for me to stop for ice cream, she is 100% certain that I will stop. So much so, that she will thank me in advance for the ice cream that I have not yet, but surely will buy for her. This touches my heart so much that she's almost always right. Unless it's horribly inconvenient or we've already had some sort of a treat that day, I will almost always stop for ice cream. How can I not? I believe this kind of faith touches our Father's heart deeply. The Gospel writer, Mark, recorded the words of Jesus when he said, "I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for--believe that you have received them, and you will have them." Our Heavenly Father loves and rewards this type of expectancy. What are you believing God for today with that much expectancy? (I am asking myself that same question.)
  3. Children are obedient. Unless there are deeper issues of discipline that I will not delve into here, children will do as they are told. For a child, "Because I said so..." is a valid argument when they ask, "Why?" Since children are innocently self-centered, they receive joy from pleasing their parents so they (generally) do as they're told. As they get older and their worldview becomes larger, they'll require more of a "big picture" reason to obey. I believe that Jesus is telling us in the Matthew 18 passage that he values this type of obedience because the Father knows the "big picture" and that for us to truly be joyful in him, we just need to obey.
  4. Children are forgiving. Confession time! I am not always the best Dad. I have messed up on many occasions. The most humbling thing I've had to do as a Dad is to confess my mistakes to my kids. Without hesitation, their response is always, "It's OK, Daddy." I am crying at my computer just thinking about those times of sweet forgiveness and reconciliation. Sometimes I'll confess "lesser mistakes" just to hear those sweet words, "I forgive you." Hearing those words from my children reminds me that I am forgiven by my Heavenly Father. Jesus said that if we don't forgive others, we won't be forgiven. While I believe that's true, I also believe that it is a description rather than a prescription. If we are unable to forgive others, it is likely because we do not know the sweet relief of having been forgiven ourselves. What wretched creatures we are! Yet the Father sent His Son to absorb the full weight of punishment for our sin and clothe us in His righteousness. There is no one who has sinned against us more than we have sinned against Holy God, yet he forgives us. There is no reason not to forgive others. Take your hands off their throats (emotionally) and let them go. The only one choking is you.
This is a lot to take in. Let's discuss this further. What have I missed? What other childlike qualities do you think Jesus values?

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