The other day, this passage came to my attention (my comments are in blue):
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted [to twist, that is, turn quite around or reverse (literally or figuratively)], and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me [a child is able to believe in Jesus], it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish [to destroy fully (reflexively to perish, or lose), literally or figuratively]. (Mat 18:1-14)
When we put the children down to bed at night, we sing the chorus to Jesus Loves the Little Children (click on the link for the full lyrics). Sometimes, I just sing the song routinely while my mind wonders off due to tiredness or reflecting on the trials of the day. I think God wants my heart focused on those moments, not taking for granted my time with the children He entrusted to me.
In this passage from Matthew 18, we read about the great value that Jesus places on children and child likeness (not childishness!). Those who come to him in faith must become like little children. Children are dependent on and trusting in their parents. They want their parents’ love and approval. As parents, we must be careful to not harm that trust and demonstrate that we value our children as God’s created beings (although we don’t always approve of their actions and attitudes). Our Heavenly Father is trustworthy. He demonstrated His love for us through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, bearing our sins on his body. He approves of those who are His born-again children through faith.
Jesus gives strong warnings to those who cause “little ones” to sin. We frequently read in the news of children being harmed and offended, some in horrific ways. However, could my own actions and attitudes cause children and those young in the faith to stumble? The Father’s heart is that not one of these “little ones” should be lost. He desires that all would be saved (see 1Ti 2:4).
The phrase “little ones” seems to refer to literal children and those who are childlike in faith. I sometimes marvel at the simple faith exhibited by children. They are not encumbered by the complexities of doctrine or the yoke of man-made religion. Please don’t misunderstand me, it is important that we increase in our knowledge and understanding of Christ, with the goal of strengthening our relationship with him. However, I desire to have that purity and innocence of childlike faith. When I meditate too much on who I am apart from Christ, I venture away from that child likeness and start to try to earn my favor with God. Or, on the contrary, I become puffed-up with my piety and offend God with my pride. When I return to the cross and humble myself to see that he had to die there for me, then the childlike love, devotion and dependence returns.
The other evening, our youngest daughter was looking at a picture book about The Good Shepherd. She became fixated on a sanitized picture of Jesus on the cross. She studied it for quite a while and kept pointing at the nail in his feet. She mumbled one syllable that we couldn’t quite understand. We simply explained who he was and why he was hanging there. She continued to be mesmerized by the picture as we spoke to her. I wonder if she was simply impacted by the visual or if something eternal spoke to her heart. I look forward to being able to converse with her about these matters.
Passages like this one provide comfort to us as we reflect on the simple childlike faith of our son Isaac. Because he was a child and had this childlike faith, we fully expect to see him again. We are blessed to have the children that God has entrusted to us. Through this journey, may we “grow” into child likeness (an oxymoron?) in our faith in Christ.
Seeking faith like a child,