Children Of The Kingdom
On a few occasions, Jesus used little children as examples for his disciples. His point...that they have qualities that should be emulated. In fact, they have qualities one MUST have if they are to be a part of his kingdom!
In Mark 10:13-16 the disciples were rebuking people for bringing their children to Jesus. It very much displeased Jesus and he said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." Jesus didn’t go into a detailed list for us but we can observe and determine ourselves what virtues are demonstrated in little children.
Let’s briefly look at some of the qualities Jesus had in mind. They are certainly qualities that are substantiated by many other passages in the New Testament. See if you need to work on any of these in your life... I know I do!
Children Are Content
I’m referring to a contentment beyond being fussy for a diaper change or bottle. They demonstrate a simple cheerfulness and satisfaction until they grow older and learn discontentment. They don’t really care what kind of car their car seat is in...it can be a Lamborghini or a broken down heep! You can buy them the neatest, most expensive toy in the store...and they’ll prefer playing with the box or the bow! Clothes...optional! They certainly don’t care if it says Ralph Lauren on the label or it's a WalMart special!
As our affection for material things increases, we learn how to be discontented when we lack them. But Paul shows us we can learn contentment in Philippians 4, when he wrote: "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." Where or how did he learn it? In the next verse he reveals the answer! "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me". He learned from Jesus! Do we demonstrate that kind of contentment?
Children Are Loving
They are anxious and eager to both give and receive love. They express their love freely without reservation or embarassment. When I used to pick Grey up at preschool, he saw me at the end of the hall and yelled, “DAD!” and came running to hug me. When I picked him up in high school...he’d see me at the end of the hall...All I got was a nod! It wasn’t that he loved me any less...it just wasn’t cool to show it in front of his friends. Why do we lose that? When does it become uncomfortable to express our love, both physically and verbally for each other? Are we loving like little children?
Children Are Forgiving
My childhood friend in my neighborhood for 10 years of my adolencent life was Ernie Cardwell. We played with our trucks in the dirt, built forts and hideouts, camped out together, went to school together. We’d start out fine in the morning, then get into an argument, run to our respective homes and slam the door! By the afternoon we were back out together as if it had never happened! We not only forgave each other...we completely forgot what we had fought over! When do we lose that? When do we begin to keep record of offenses and hold grudges for years? Are we demonstrating the forgiveness of a child?
Children Are Natural
They are simply themselves...until they learn differently. “Hypocrite” to the Greeks wasn’t necessarily a negative thing...it just meant an actor, one who wears a mask or tries to make you believe they are someone else. Jesus used it with a negative connotation - It’s someone who is pretentious, two-faced, someone being unnatural. Not so with little children!
After a child in a highchair eats spaghetti and meat sauce...do they care how they look? Are they concerned about how their hair looks in the morning after they get up? Are they concerned if their onesey is flattering to their figure? They are just themselves! I’m not saying we should look like slobs and have no regard for our appearance but when do we put on masks and try to be something we are not? When do we learn to act one way to our "audience" but then live very differently "off stage" in our private lives?
Children Are Dependent
Ironically, we raise our children to be independent. To be able to leave the nest, live on their own, to be independent, productive & responsible citizens. But how important and crucial it is that we merge that with an abiding dependence on God!
Little children need their parents, they depend wholly and completely on us. But they don’t sit and wring their hands with worry. They look to mom and dad and know they will take care of everything. They put their trust and dependency completely in their parents’ hands.
Why can’t we maintain that same mindset with our heavenly Father?
Jesus told us NOT to be anxious about things. Instead, our focus should be on our Father. It doesn’t mean we don’t have responsibilities to meet and effort to exert. But God is the provider and sustainer for all we are and have. And we need to demonstrate that same kind of trust and dependency on Him
Children Are Innocent
If children are born depraved, like some theologies insist, why would Jesus have told the people to, “repent and be like these children”?
If the kingdom is to be free of evil and sin, why would he want those coming into the kingdom to have evil and sin, if that is the state of children? It’s obvious he recognized little children are innocent. Children have no sin until they mature and develop an accountability for their sin.
Achieving a quality of innocence is a real challenge...the world fills us with a lot of garbage. But reverting back to that stage of our lives, is what Jesus said to do. To strive to be pure, holy and innocent of any sinfulness. What can help us get back to that stage? Focusing on God and godly things, talking to Him frequently in prayer, filling our minds with his word, and avoiding evil things that assault our every sense. Again, like contentment, it is learned (or relearned). “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8) And of course, it also helps to know that God has washed our past sins away! We don’t have to dwell on those past mistakes any longer because He has forgotten and forgiven. Keep looking forward, eyes on Him and the goal. That’s how we attain innocence like little children!
Children Are Humble
They aren’t arrogant and prideful...until they learn it. They are lowly and unassuming.
In Matthew 18, Jesus was in Capernaum with his disciples. They were disputing with one another over who would be the greatest in the kingdom. You can imagine them crowding in a cluster, each trying to justify to Jesus why each should be granted prime kingdom positions. Evidently a little child was there, but had been pushed out of the way, religated to the back of this group, certainly not a party to this argument. Jesus saw him and called the child to come forward and put him in the middle of the group and said, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (verse 4) We aren’t told how the disciples reacted to this revelation but it had to have stung.
Perhaps you’ve experienced situations where you may have acted haugtily and then were put in your place...it isn’t very comfortable. If the disciples didn’t get the message that day, they certainly did at the Passover when God's Son, their Master and Lord, got down on his hands and knees and washed their feet. He performed the lowliest act of service, because he had a servant’s heart. That’s why he came - to serve! And from that night on what amazing humility He demonstrated. Peter refused to have Jesus wash his feet at first until Jesus said if he refused, he’d have no part of Him. Later, Peter would write, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) Are we living humble lives, in humble service to God and to others?
"Become like little children, for such is the kingdom of God." That is Jesus’ charge and his challenge for each of us!