Luke 18: 15 – 17 The little children and Jesus
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’
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What do children do that adults don’t?
Before I start suggesting answers to that question, I would say that I’m both a parent and a grandparent. I know that even the littlest child can exhibit self-will, temper and be generally obnoxious!
Small children trust their parents wholeheartedly. They copy them. They believe the answers parents give to their questions. They cuddle their parents. They go to sleep soothed by them. They eat the food that is prepared by them. They love their parents uncritically and with devotion.
What do adults do that children don’t?
They doubt. They want their own way. They treat answers to prayer with scepticism. They reject God’s teaching in favour of secular thinking. Their love for God is critical and often half-hearted.
Now, as I’m an adult and not a child, I have all the faults that I list above. You can replace “They” with “I”, and “Their” with “My” and you sum me up pretty exactly. And I’m not sure that’s entirely bad.
It seems to me that the teaching of the bible is not always straightforward, and it needs thinking about as well as praying about. Likewise, ethical questions are not always easy to answer and need prayerful, but also thoughtful, consideration. Indeed, I think that Jesus positively encourages us to engage with ethics, and not simply apply a set of rules – because no matter how comprehensive your rules, you will always miss certain nuances.
The summary “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbour as yourself,” (Luke 10: 27) both summarises Mosaic Law and increases its scope. Note the specific injunction to love the Lord with all your mind. Note, too, that the parable of the good Samaritan to which this passage is a prologue is precisely about engaging with ethics, and avoiding the traps of legalism and ritualism.
But Jesus is recorded as saying ‘Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’
The first thing we can say in response is that our adult approach will never be sufficient on its own. We cannot think our way into the kingdom of God. We must become like children.
On the positive side, we must trust in God, copy Jesus, and believe the answers he gives in response to prayer. We must love God wholeheartedly (and that’s said right there in the passage (Luke 10: 27) that I quoted above).
We must be like children in trusting, loving, believing and imitating, because “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”.
Thank you that you have made your kingdom open to all. Thank you that you are our father and that you love us. Please bless us with the purity of heart to trust you, to love you, to believe you and to imitate Jesus.
In Jesus’ name, Amen