"Unless you turn and become like children"

Vaclav's picture

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:1-4)

First, this passage is not about entering the kingdom of heaven as a child, when you are a newborn baby. Jesus uses a child only as an illustration to give us a picture of what self-forgetfulness, vulnerability and trust look like for the disciples of Jesus to imitate it.

To seek to be the greatest and to be first and to be the number one is what by nature every one of us wants and seeks after. But such aspirations are a way to a life of stress, frustration, disappointment and ultimately it will result in a life that is opposed to the way of discipleship by Jesus in his kingdom.

In the eyes of Jesus, the only way to be first is to be the very last, and servant of all. To want to be the number one in the eyes of the world, is to depend on opinions and acceptance of others...and since people are fickle and changeable, their opinions and judgments will always be partial...you will have to dance according to their whistling.

But if I seek and find love and acceptance in God through faith in Jesus, it really doesn't matter what people think of my position in life. As a disciple of Jesus, I can clean toilets, stock shelves, wash dishes or do anything for living.

"Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool - though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith - my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling - not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil's fools." (Martin Luther)

If I do all that as for Jesus, I know that I please him, and I know that he loves and accepts me, not because of what I do, but because of who he is and what he has done for me on the cross, to make me one of his children.

So, no matter what I do, no matter what others are thinking or saying of me, I can serve all with a free and happy heart. And though I may not be recognized by others, Jesus will recognize me! A picture of a little child as an example of what a servant and a disciple of Jesus is is a picture of a person that is vulnerable, humble, trustful, and dependent on God alone.

"When Anastasia, then four years old, was prattling of Christ, angels, and heaven, Luther (the Reformer struggled with doubts) said, "My dear child, if only we could hold fast to this faith." "Why, papa," said she, "don't you believe it?" Luther commented: Christ has made the children our teachers. I am chagrined that although I am ever so much a doctor (of theology), I still have to go to the same school with Hans and Magdalena (and Anastasia his children), for who among men can understand the full meaning of this word of God, "Our Father who art in heaven"? (Roland Bainton)

Before his nap today I asked my 3-year-old son who is also named Luther, the New City Catechism question # 41: What is the Lord's prayer? And he quoted it to me flawlessly with his beautiful and sweet little child's pronunciation. I was humbled.

Are we dependent on the opinions of others or on the opinion of Jesus, our loving Lord, and master? Are we like little children - trustful and self-forgetful when it comes to entering and staying in the kingdom of Christ?