“13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Clearly, we must be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven. But what does this mean for us now — in our day-to-day lives? The last couple months, God has nudged me to explore the latter question.
Commentaries on these verses are plentiful and fairly consistent. People were bringing little children (paidia, those ranging from older babies to preteens) to Jesus so that He could touch and bless them. The disciples rebuked them and tried to keep the “culturally unimportant” children from wasting Jesus’ time. Jesus was indignant and further highlighted the importance of His message with a sharp double command, “Let the little children come… and do not hinder them.”
It becomes clear to those listening to Jesus that God’s heaven is not gained by human achievement, position, or merit; it must be received as God’s gift through the simple trust of those who acknowledge their own inability, and accept His gift of salvation. The first century Jewish attitude toward children was that they didn’t matter, didn’t count, and merited no level of importance or attention. On this occasion the disciples heard Jesus saying that they personally needed to be willing to see themselves as unimportant, but not to be despised or shamed. In Jesus’ eyes these little ones were of utmost value, presented as models for would-be disciples. Jesus took pleasure in giving them unmerited grace and compassion.
The key for our lives today is found in the words “such as these.” Jesus isn’t saying that Heaven will be inhabited only by those with the title of little ones, but that children of God should possess the qualities consistent with young children. What does that mean for our daily life as His followers?
In thinking about these verses, I have been on an internet exploration. I am the fifth daughter. Even my best outfits had already been photographed multiple times back when my older sisters wore them, so there are very few pictures of me as a child. In fact, when I was in 6th grade, our class made a bulletin board of everyone’s baby pictures. Excitedly, I pinned my happy mug up — only to notice later that the date of the picture was 1951 (I was born in 1964)… my sweet mom had inadvertently supplied a picture of my sister, Mary!
So in the last few months, I searched the web for pictures of “little children,” mostly girls, to remind myself of what I was like way back when. By clicking on the link, you can see many photos that I pinned on my Pinterest. I studied precious little ones and prayerfully considered what they reveal to me, in order to capture the meaning of “such as these.” I’m trying to remember and rediscover who I was when I was unencumbered by the world’s opinions, pressures, and judgements. When I was free to be me, and incapable of being otherwise.
I encourage you to collect your own pictures — of yourself or other children! Let them speak to your heart as you ask God what qualities are in little children that He desires in you. Here’s an incomplete list of adjectives and phrases I feel describes what I saw and felt when I searched the faces of little ones.
Amazed — Joyful — marveling — curious — unhurried — no audience — content — imaginative — creative — glowing — healthy — beautiful — delighted — loving — consumed — giving and receptive — innocent — loved — deep — thoughtful — intrigued — adventurous — bright — open — soft — tactile — engrossed in the moment — unaffected — warm — willing — trusting — unafraid — authentic, yet not trapped — FREE — full of wonder — awe struck — simple — real — beautiful from the inside out — blooming — can’t hold in authenticity — unreserved — uninhibited — effervescent — self-assured — unbridled emotion — safe — secure — hospitable — restful — gentle — feminine (girls) — unashamed — exuberant — experimental — fresh — glorious — proud — full — appreciative — brilliant — independent, wanting to “do it myself” — dependent — vulnerable — overjoyed — sharing — artistic — living in abundance — open — offering — needs love — needs comfort — expressive — real — inviting — thankful — unselfconscious — vast — relational — non-conforming, unique — incapable of pretense — no adornment needed — prayerful — amused — mischievous of the best kind — encouraging — experiential — proud — imaginative — active — moving — balanced — productive — not driven — determined — without judgment — patient with own shortcomings — grace-filled — interested — resourceful — feeling music — aware of no audience or critics — unhurried — unpretentious — rested — encouraged — undeterred — persistent — pretty — innocent — work is fun — expectant — take charge — Absorbing — affectionate — happy — unabashed — content — stretching — not covetous — abundance, no worries — empowered — excited — at peace — expressive — intimate — open to all emotions — unfiltered — without purpose — vulnerable — searching — trusting — sponge — spontaneous — strong — observant –responsive — flexible — sassy — expectant and content at same time — surprised — un-rushed — abundance of all things — positive — intent — gentle with own efforts — focused — demonstrative — connected body, heart, and mind — playful — without fear
What a glorious list! Several of these qualities (in bold below) really stood out for me. After I typed the list above, my computer froze. Nothing “worked.” So I left it, read the days’s devotional and a few other things. Don’t you love it when God works in His mysterious ways — so obviously that you can’t miss His message? 😉 See below a few commentaries I came across related to this verse — all while my computer malfunctioned.
Fully Present. Little children are fully engrossed in the reality of the present moment. “When Jesus tells us to become like little children, He is inviting us to forget what lies behind. …Whatever we have done in the past, be it good or evil, great or small, is irrelevant to our stance before God today.It is only now that we are in the presence of God.” The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
Abundance. Expressive. Exuberance. Young children seem to operate from the Abundance of God’s Kingdom — meaning they aren’t anxious about lack of supply. They know something great and new is yet to come, while simultaneously being content and engrossed in whatever holds their present attention. They also seem to experience the abundant life promised in John 10:10. They are unbridled in emotion and fully connected in mind, body, soul, and spirit.
Full of Wonder. Awestruck. Appreciative. “In our skeptical and scientific world, it seems we have lost our childlike sense of wonder and awe. We fail to notice the daily miracles surrounding us. Jesus warns us, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15). Jesus is telling us to call upon God with the wonder and amazement of a child. He calls us to believe in Him with the trusting nature of a child. He wants to see our excitement every time we seek His face.” Michael Youssef (today’s devotional)
Incapable of pretense. Unself-conscious. “In Matt 18: 2-4, Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter as He sets the child on His knee. The child is unself-conscious, incapable of pretense…. The kingdom belongs to people who aren’t trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves…. The child doesn’t have to struggle to get himself in a good position for having a relationship with God.” The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning
Outrageously Joyful. Fearless. Those who encountered Jesus had “a liberating experience of sheer joy. He freed them from self-hatred, exhorted them not to confuse their self perception of themselves with the mystery they really were, gave them what they needed more than anything else — encouragement for their lives — and delivered reassuring words such as, ‘Do not live in fear little flock; don’t be afraid; fear is useless, what is needed is trust; stop worrying; cheer up — your sins are all forgiven.’ …The contagious joy of Jesus (only carriers pass it on) infected and freed HIs followers.” The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning
Sponge. Curious. Receptive. “There is a wondrous open-mindedness about children and an insatiable desire to learn from life. An open attitude is like an open door — a welcoming disposition… When our inner child is not nurtured and nourished, our minds gradually close to new ideas, unprofitable commitments, and the surprises of the Spirit. Evangelical faith is bartered for cozy comfortable piety.” The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
FREE! That’s the one that brought me to tears. Free in some ways is the umbrella over all the other qualities. In my next post I’ll explore why we as adult followers of Christ are so reserved, and what we might do to regain some of those childlike characteristics.
I want to dance like no one’s watching. To whole-heartedly sing with passion equal to the superior voices on stage. To simply be amazed with God all day, every day. To be fully present in this moment. To unbridle my jubilance without fear. To love with sincerity and abandon. To love to learn and work because it’s my privilege. To live with confidence in God’s provision and respond with outrageous generosity. To shed all my masks and pretense, and live the free life God offers me — knowing all the love, acceptance, worth and security I need is found in Him.
I want to be vulnerable, authentic, and surrendered to the Lord — my audience of one. To trust no matter what, to live in hope, confidence and excited expectation, because Abba has a plan and wants to bless me. I want my gratitude to be continual and my praise to be spontaneous. I want to trust God ruthlessly and live with the wisdom of my years and the faith of a little child.
I want to be the one who God had in mind when he knit me in my mother’s womb, and live the abundant life I was created to live. But how? How do I reclaim who God made me to be?
Please join my unfolding journey. I would love to hear your comments as you use my pictures or your own to look into what it means to be “such as these.”