“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4 ESV
Jesus mention of a child like faith, begs the question to me, what is so different in the faith of a child that Jesus is calling for us to embody in our lives? How is the way 1st graders see the world and their faith so different than us as adults? I see two key things that I believe Jesus is getting at in this verse.
First, children assume the best. Children believe that God wants good for them, God wants to answer their prayers. Children assume that authority figures in their lives (teachers, pastors, and police officers), want good for them and everyone else too. I share this because one of the more discouraging things to see as a Pastor is how many people assume the worst about others and God. The pastor must be up to something more than they are sharing, teachers are just lazy, police officers are just power hungry. I see it at churches, a low murmur of conspiracy theory, where stories are hatched of dissention, dishonesty, unChrist-like behavior and are shared as fact. It is assumed that we cannot really mean well for one another, we cannot all really be people of integrity. People can’t really mean what they are saying, they can’t really be that honest, God can’t really be doing something that wonderful, so they expect the other shoe to drop, and if it doesn’t they hatch a conspiracy theory about what the other shoe is, and when to expect it to drop. I ask you to stop for a moment and consider that perhaps when we assume the worst in others, it is a reflection of our own struggles. It’s not that I think that person is so bad, but if I were in their shoes, I might try something sketchy like that. You wonder how someone could really mean good for you and others, and since that is hard to conceive, you assume their purpose is not really that good.
The second thing I see in children that I believe Christ wants to see in us, is that children struggle to grasp how you could not believe. Children don’t doubt for a second the magic of Christmas, the Easter Bunny, and most importantly a God who they cannot see, but loves them more than anyone on this earth ever could. If God says he will hear our prayers, then a child cannot grasp how God wouldn’t. If God tells us that he will do impossible things in our midst, then of course that is exactly what God will do in a child’s mind. Children assume the truth in verses like Matthew 21:22 “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” There is no nuance, no qualifiers, no maybe this will happen, they get that God makes a promise and is good for it.
Jesus encourages us to have a child like faith to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus definitely says that unless we take on this kind of attitude we are not able to enter his Kingdom. We are not able to live the way Christ calls for us to live, to be most fulfilled, to be most who you were created to be, without taking on this child-like faith. A faith that assumes the best about one another and our God; a faith that believes, even when circumstances suggest that maybe we shouldn’t. How might your faith need to change and be more child like?