The old adage is that children should be seen and not heard. Anyone who’s been on an airplane with children yelling out and running up and down the aisles might mutter that under their breath. If you’ve ever been at a restaurant where the kid two tables over was crying the whole time, you would definitely appreciate the wisdom of that aphorism. You might even go so far as to agree with W. C. Fields who once said, “Anyone who hates children and animals can’t be all bad.”
We do tend to have a mixed reaction to children, don’t we? We love seeing the cute little babies when they are just born, or early in their lives even. We recognize that children are needed to keep humanity going, but we just don’t want them around, or so it seems. Especially when we are around “important” people. We are sure to keep the kids away from important people. Imagine the horror of the disciples when people brought their children to Jesus to be blessed. Jesus was far too important for that! He was supposed to be teaching adults. The disciples tried to block the parents from getting their children blessed, but were unsuccessful. Then, Jesus undercut their efforts by letting the disciples know that He wanted the children to come. “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)
We live in a world that celebrates power. Lou Ferigno, who played the Incredible Hulk on the TV show, noted that when he was little, people picked on him because of his hearing loss. He took up body building to have the power so that people wouldn’t pick on him. Rather than being embittered by what others did to him, he has become a very gracious person. We admire politicians with power, unless they are the people we voted against. We look at big businessmen and women and respect, if not admire their power. We listen to anyone who has power who will speak and are willing to accept their opinions because of their power. As followers of Christ, we often think of the amazing things that could happen in the Kingdom of God if one of these powerful people were to accept Christ and start proclaiming the gospel. Every so often, that happens. And all our expectations of the great changes that would be made as others followed this person of power go down the drain. This attitude was true in ancient Israel as well. I imagine the disciples thought that Jesus might lose credibility points if He was seen blessing children instead of speaking to powerful people. Jesus set them straight. Jesus sets us straight today.
When people who are powerful seem to seek God, they often come bargaining with God because of their power. Children have no power. The message of Jesus that we need to receive the Kingdom of God like children is, in part, a statement that when we search for God, we can’t be bringing our own power as a negotiating tool. The way to come to God is with nothing but our sins in our hands, seeking forgiveness and grace. We are to love unreservedly. Children are like that. When they make friends, they don’t calculate how this friend will help them or make them look in the community. The look for quality people. They love unreservedly. People often note that children of different ethnicities get along until someone teaches them to hate. When children come to Christ they don’t understand all the theological implications in their decision; they just realize that God loves them and wants to forgive them when they are wrong. And this is how we need to come to Christ: as little children who realize that God loves us, in spite of our sins, and wants to forgive us and fellowship with us.
Lord God, little children get this thing right. They understand how to love You without reservation; that You love them and want to forgive them when they are wrong. May I always be like a little child.