And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 NIV)
When Jesus commands us to become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, most people can understand that He was not insisting that we should become childish, as in immature, but instead childlike.
So what are some of the traits of children that Jesus could be referring to in this command?
A common trait of childlikeness would be humility. The ability to listen to others, and even being willing to hear that we are wrong, without holding a grudge against the one who has corrected us. Children can often be very forgiving of others who have wronged them in some way, as opposed to adults who can find it very hard to let go of bitterness about what has happened to them.
Another trait is wonder. Have you ever marveled at how children can be so awe-inspired by much of the world around them? Don’t you wish you could recapture this innocence? Drugs are often used to bring about a similar state to some childlike enjoyment that many adults feel is missing in their lives. It doesn’t have to be this way though. As adults, we can feel like we have “seen it all before” but this is truly a deception. Even though we each go through many of the same motions throughout our daily existence, if we stop and reflect momentarily on how much we don’t know about our universe, we can shake ourselves out of the deception and jaded-ness that the adult world often fills us with.
Trust is probably one of the strongest traits of children that Jesus was pointing to in the verse above. Because we have been deceived by others, and even by those we love and respect, it is easy to put up a guard and decide to become suspicious of everyone. But I don’t think Jesus was telling us to trust in some misguided, open ended sense. No, Jesus was saying that the only One worthy of our absolute trust is our Heavenly Father. For those of us who have been abandoned or hurt in some way by our parents, this seems like an impossible ask. We have to remember that Jesus painted a picture of our Heavenly Parent as being infinitely more caring than our earthly parents.
To me, trust and faith seem to be fairly interchangeable. We have to trust that God is aware of us, and cares for us. We have to believe (have faith) that God will continue to care for us, even if we are called to die for our faith. Many people would object and say that God cannot be loving if He allows suffering and death for His children. But what these same people so often overlook is that by giving us LIFE in the first place, we have already experienced a sample of God’s creative love. How much time is spent blaming God for things, versus time spent praising God for gifts we take for granted (like the sense of taste, for instance)?
To sum up, who would you rather listen to? The world, that sucks the marrow out of our lives and offers only meaninglessness, or Jesus, who offers us a plan for living now which renews our vision with wonder and purpose? I would strongly suggest the One who has the true Fountain of youth!