Christ loved children. Many miracles during His ministry involved children. He healed their illnesses, freed them from demons and raised them from death. Many who heard Christ teach recognized that affection and brought their children to be touched by Him. It was during one of these sermons that some parents came with their small children to be blessed by Jesus. A few of the disciples arrogantly tried to stop them from intruding on the valuable time of the Master. It was only Christ's intervention that kept these parents from being turned away. He used this occasion to illustrate a basic attitude of those who would enter the Kingdom of God. "And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them" (Mark 10:13-16).
"...Except ye be converted, 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" (Matthew 18:1-4).
At another time, it was Christ who called a little child into the midst of the disciples and used him as an object lesson in humility. Placing the child at their feet, He admonished all those who would be great in the Kingdom to become humble, "as this little child." "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, 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" (Matthew 18:1-4). To become like a child. To approach God's Kingdom with the humility of a young child. Confusing? Perhaps, but only if we approach the idea like Nicodemus' concept of returning to the womb to be "born again." Christ was showing that 'those who sought His Kingdom must look to a child to see that their traits and characteristics are representative of true Christianity. The obvious importance of becoming like a child is plain with even a casual reading of these scriptures. A person does not have to become. childish and revert in his or her maturity to fulfill this principle. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men" (I Corinthians 14:20). Paul was saying not to be foolish and immature, but to combine the wisdom of age with the benign kindness of a young child T somewhat reminiscent of Christ's teaching to be wise as a serpent yet harmless as a dove. Children have many traits that help us understand what Christ meant in His comparisons. An examination of some of these characteristics can show us what it takes to become like a child.
Children trust their parents. They will accept without doubt virtually anything a parent tells them: If they are promised a gift or reward for their conduct, then as far as the child is concerned, it will be delivered. This unconcerned faith knows that the parent's word is good. This trusting attitude extends to all parts of the child's world. They feel little concern or worry for the creature comforts of life because they know that dad or mom will always provide for them. In a close-knit family where the parents have woven a bond of intimacy, the sudden and abrupt changes, such as dad losing his job or being transferred, may not adversely affect. the children. They still know that dad will come through. This is the attitude that Christ tried to instill in His followers during His Sermon on the Mount. He told them not to be overly concerned about food, drink or clothing. After all, He asked, isn't there more to life than what we eat or wear? If God designed the beautiful plants of the field, cannot He adequately provide for His human children? The plants grow and die with the cycle of the seasons, but we continue on, with a far more enduring destiny. Christ taught to seek the righteousness of His Kingdom first, and He would insure that the comfortable necessities of life — the only goals sought after by those without a knowledge of the truth — would be provided (Matthew 6:25-33). We've recaptured a 1ost trait of childhood when we can approach God with that kind of trust.
Child psychologists have long known that children begin learning at birth. Some studies show that by age 4 or 5 at least 50 percent of a child's intelligence is set. A child is learning more during these early years than he or she will during the remainder of his adult life. Children are teachable. They want to learn. Their minds are like sponges, absorbing everything in their environment. Given the opportunity and time from a parent, child will be eager to learn. They want to be taught by their parents. Parental example and influence is the strongest factor in a child's early years. They learn first from mom and dad, and, because of the amount of time spent together, they will learn the most from mom and dad. The question to consider is, are we teachable? When it comes, to spiritual principles that guide our lives, do we have the teachable attitude of a child wanting to learn from his parent? It has been said that before a person can learn the truth of God, he must first have his mind swept clear of a lifetime of error and false teaching. Then there exists an uncluttered mind capable of learning and holding the truth as revealed by God's Spirit. Peter addressed this point directly: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings" (I Peter 2:1). Described here are barriers to learning that we absorb as we grow older and are tempered and scarred by life's experiences. They can also keep us from growing in the knowledge of God. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (I Peter 2:2). An infant often cries out for its mother's milk, craving the physical nourishment to insure bodily growth. There is a fundamental teaching there for a son of God desiring spiritual growth. Just as we age in life and lose some of the childlike characteristics, so also in our spiritual life we grow out of our first love for the truth after a few years in God's Church. We're not as eager to learn and to study into the Bible for instruction from our spiritual Father. Spiritual calluses build up, and, before we know it, we resist teaching from the Church. This is why Christ admonished us to not forget the childlike attitude needed to enter His Kingdom.
Children trust their parents. They will accept without doubt virtually anything a parent tells them. If they are promised a gift or reward for their conduct, then as far as the child is concerned, it will be delivered.
No matter how long we have been members of God's Church, we can always be taught. We must, in order to be continually growing in grace and knowledge! The example of Solomon is classic in this regard. Although a young adult, having been schooled in the law of God from his youth, and the crowned king of Israel, he still realized the need to be taught in order to rule wisely. "And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead Of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" (I Kings 3:7-9). Solomon's unselfish request for wisdom still serves to exemplify the teachable quality of a child's mind.
Do you take correction as easily as your children? Children have to be corrected from time to time in order to learn proper behavior. Do you find your kids bearing any grudges against you as a result? Probably not, if you have corrected in the right manner, out of love and concern for their growth. Children have a remarkable way of forgetting the necessary moments of correction. It's lucky for a parent they do. How easily do you forgive and forget? We all must go through times of correction, and for most of us it isn't easy. Our normal reaction is to bristle and become self-defensive. More than likely we may not be so forgiving and forgetful as a child would be. God says that He chastens those whom He loves and that correction is good for us: "And ye have not forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:5-11). To receive correction without allowing a grudge or vindictive spirit to grow marks a childlike attitude.
Children love to imitate mom and dad. This is one of the earliest methods of learning for a child. Dressing up in mother's shoes, clothing and makeup or borrowing dad's razor and shaving cream suddenly makes one older and more like mom and dad. The parent is the central figure in a child's mind. Anything a parent does is okay as far as a child is concerned. This puts a big responsibility on a parent to set the best possible example for their children. In I Corinthians 11:1, Paul expressed this trait of imitating in regard to our spiritual Father, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." The sense of the Greek means to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ. Just as children copy their physical parents, we, as Christians, should follow the example set by our spiritual Father. This entails knowing the character, life-style and personality of God as revealed in the Bible. Coming to intimately know God will allow us to know what to imitate. The desire to emulate God in every part of our life should be central to our existence.
A final trait to consider is that of a child's ability to show warmth and friendliness. Children can be very loving. From the image of a little girl throwing kisses toward a bashful beau to that of "daddy's boy" throwing his arms around a proud parent — these open, honest displays of affection demonstrate a humbling reminder of the feelings we suppress. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" (I John 4:11-12, 20-21) Christ used children to symbolize the essence of humility — one of the necessary characteristics of a disciple. A humble attitude is trusting, teachable, forgiving, desirous of imitating Christ and full of love. If we can learn the lesson represented in a child, then our prayer can be like that of David in Psalm 131: "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child" (Psalm 131:1-2).