"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)
Jesus rebukes his disciples, who are arguing for status and prestige in God's kingdom.
They've missed the point, as they do so often.
Jesus, instead, brings a child in their midst and offers the child as an example for all of his disciples.
What is it about a child that makes her/him the quintessential citizen of the Kingdom? What childlike qualities are the disciples, are we to possess in order to become great in the eyes of God?
Surely, it has something to do with the rank of children in that Ancient Near East society. Children were not given a proverbial place at the table--all the more reason for God to set the banquet table exclusively for children and the like.
Yes, social status (or the lack thereof) is one such aspect of "becoming childlike" to which Jesus points.
But what is it about children's personalities, children's hearts that embody the kingdom of God?
Children are not self-sufficient.
From the time they are born until adulthood (and indeed, in adulthood), children require nurture and care. They also require supervision. They need to be held, in order to feel secure. They need to be in the company of trusted others, in order to feel safe. They depend on someone other than themselves to survive.
Children are not yet the hardened rationalists that we adults are.
To be sure, education is important, especially in our society. I wonder if we do a disservice to children when we hard-wire their brains to respond logically, methodically to all of life's problems. We come to treat all we encounter as something that can be solved, fixed, if we apply enough reason to it. We teach them how and what they ought to believe.
I wonder if we are teaching our children not to trust their hearts in these matters. I wonder how sentimental and simplistic this sounds to some of you--myself, included.
The message being: 'Choose head over heart; it will get you further in life.'
I am learning this lesson in my own life recently. I am coming to realize just how much I have used my head and just how out of touch I have been with my own heart. This does not mean I have been cold and unfeeling. I haven't. But, what it comes down to is that I have relied on my head to get me places in life. It's what we've been trained to do, since a very young age.
I have been educated and trained at fine institutions. I have been taught how to analyze, criticize, and deconstruct any argument or belief I come across. I have been instructed well on how to use my head.
I could make a good argument as to why I should be the greatest in the Kingdom. Choose me--here are my credentials. Pick me--here are my diplomas.
"Change and become like a child."
Stop answering from your head, Leah.
They say children are more open to the spiritual realm than adults are, since we have trained our minds not to believe those things we cannot see or explain or justify.
To live from your heart, as an adult, is scary. It means releasing our grip from our tightly-held beliefs. It means more questions and fewer answers. It is a kind of unlearning that God requires of us before entering into the Kingdom.
To engage life and all its complexities and challenges and equations with your heart instead of your head means a change in our faith--from learned and espoused beliefs to simple, childlike trust in and reliance upon God.
If we are to change and become like children, as Jesus requires of us, we must move from our heads to our hearts, from self-sufficiency to dependency, from belief to trust.
May we enter into God's gracious Kingdom with nothing but the trust of a child. Amen.