15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)
My son and I had the pleasure of assisting with a week-long soccer camp at our church, which was being led by Athletes in Action. It’s a great organization and the leaders they sent were wonderful lights for Christ. Each day was filled with lots of activities, opportunities to learn real soccer skills, but also time for the kids to learn more about Jesus. My son and I had two of the youngest groups (mostly 6- and 7-year olds). We joked together that the 15 minutes allotted to teaching were the longest 5 hours of the day. We felt we were no match for the pinecones lying on the ground nor the kids’ goofy (contagious) antics. I was convinced that very little of the teaching was penetrating their overstimulated minds. But on the last day as I went around and asked if they had learned anything about God this week, one of the boys, Josh, piped up. “Coach Johnny shared a story that there was something he really wanted, but God showed him that He wanted something else for him. I learned that God knows what is best for us.” Each day a coach would share a personal story to bring home the teaching of the day, and three days earlier Coach Johnny had shared his story, which to be honest I had forgotten about until Josh mentioned it. I marveled that a 6-year-old had listened that intently, but more importantly was able to understand and personalize the teaching.
The Gospels recount a beautiful, and well-known story of Jesus receiving children. Many artists have tried to capture this beautiful picture.
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.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10: 13-16
What did Jesus mean when he said: “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”? Afterall we are encouraged to become wiser and more learned (Proverbs 9:9). In fact, the Apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthian church by comparing them to infants who can only handle milk and not solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). So, what is the attribute that children possess that Jesus insisted was vital to entering the Kingdom of God? I believe it is a child’s humility and faith that he is referring to.
On another occasion “the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2 He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1b-4) Life seems to have a way of making us jaded and arrogant. While it is crucial that we grow in spiritual maturity, it is equally critical that we never lose our childlike dependence on God. Like a child humbly accepts their need for their parents, we need to humbly accept our utter dependence on our loving Father in heaven. We should eagerly long to hear our Father’s voice and jump into his loving arms every day. How about you? Have you lost the inner child when it comes to your faith? Just dive back into his arms.