For years I’ve heard teachers speak on the meaning of Matthew 18:3 where Christ said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Each time the explanation given is that Jesus means I must have “faith like a child.” I’ve done Bible studies, read books, blogs and articles where this statement is explained the same.
So in other words, just as a child places their confidence and trust in their parent, we should do the same with our Heavenly Father. I agree with this, but can’t help wondering if we might be missing something important in what Jesus was saying.
“You will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless you change and become like little children.” Jesus spoke often about the Kingdom of Heaven. From the Bible we know this Kingdom is something special. Jesus said it’s like a man who finds treasure hidden in a field or like a pearl merchant finding a pearl of great value (Matthew 13:44-46). He said to seek it first.
It’s a Kingdom where God is King and His will is done. Jesus said to pray for His will to be done in earth as it is in heaven and His followers are the ones to do that. This Kingdom is not far away, it’s near. It’s in this world, but not like the world’s Kingdoms. It’s in our midst! Within you and me! It is a way of living, of believing, of being.
In Paul’s letter to the Church at Colossae (Colossians 2-3), he wrote that once you put on this “new self” (repent) you put off the “old self” ruled by the flesh and make Christ the head over earthly authorities. You set your mind on things above. Your new self lives with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. It forgives easily, just as the Lord does. It isn’t greedy or impure. The new self understands all are made in the image of our Creator and it sees people as just that – God’s children… human beings full of value. There is no race, or nationality, or slave, or free – nor male or female, as he wrote to the Galatians.
And isn’t this what Jesus exemplified to us in His life? He showed us Kingdom living. He flipped the ways of worldly Kingdoms and societies upside down. His salvation was and is different. The rich aren’t “blessed” and the poor and sick “cursed.” Women are equal and worthy, even in societies that said they are not. To be first you will serve, not be served. The people of one nation are of no more importance than those of another. There is no slave or force. The criminal, alcoholic, and sex worker have value and are worthy of being called into His Kingdom. The lost and oppressed got His attention. He laid down His life peacefully instead of fighting for it. He forgave those who killed him. There is no fear. There is love. This is the way of the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, “become like little children”…What do you see when you observe little children?
For the most part, they will play with anyone – young, old, girl, boy, gay, transgender, straight, black, Indian, disabled, billionaire, homeless, psychotic, criminal, prostitute. Those fears and social stigmas are learned. They forgive easily. They are compassionate. They are joyful, fearless and not full of worry about tomorrow. They are optimistic, not paying attention to the rain but instead to the puddles they can play in. They want to help. They are pure and full of hope.
So here’s my thought. What if “becoming like little children” isn’t only about your faith? What if it means we aren’t racist, or sexist? What if it means we need to see all people as equals and full of value? What if it means we are compassionate to everyone – even the bum on the street, or that guy who did you wrong. What if it means we serve? What if it means it doesn’t matter what the person’s occupation, or who they are attracted to or how much money they have? What if it just means we are full of hope, joy, compassion, and unconditional love?