Let the Children Lead

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Like most of us, Jesus' disciples wanted to be great. In their travels with Jesus, they occasionally discussed their positions or prominence in His coming Kingdom. Once, they forthrightly asked Jesus, "Who gets the highest rank in God's Kingdom?" (Matthew 18:1). Having been on a mountaintop with Elijah, Moses, and Jesus a few days earlier, naturally they would wonder how they might fit in this prestigious gathering. Jesus' response turned them to God's understanding of greatness:

For an answer, Jesus called over a child whom He stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I am telling you once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you are not even going to get a look at the Kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's Kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it is the same as receiving me." (Matthew 18:2–3, MSG)

Wow! Can we hear this? Will we live it? What qualities of children would Jesus want us to live?

First, we would do well to live more fully in the moment. We adults spend a lot of time and energy rehearsing for future occasions. When children are reasonably secure, they live Matthew 6:25–34: "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . ." Children are free to attend to people, things, and activities in their immediate world.

Children's humility also serves us well. Humility frees a person to listen, learn, and depend upon trustworthy others. Children accept their dependence and happily let others do for them what they cannot do for themselves. They lack the pride and arrogance that destroy honest self-acceptance and need.

Not needing privilege and prominence, children lose themselves in simple, small tasks. In doing so, they can connect to John 13:1–18: "Jesus . . . rose from supper . . . and began to wash the disciples' feet . . ." A child naturally loves gifts, even those from his heavenly father. In their arrogance, adults frequently reject the greatest gifts that meet our deepest needs—mercy, grace, forgiveness, and healing. The very offer of such gifts reveals our essential brokenness, weakness, sin, and guilt.

Finally, children's indifference to prominence also makes them lovable. Nothing works against genuine Christian community more than thirst for power, status, and applause. May God help us surrender everything that prevents us, as we mature, from becoming more childlike.