“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. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it'” –Luke 18:16-17
This particular New Testament Bible passage has always fascinated me–especially when I was a Greek Orthodox girl in an elementary Roman Catholic school where the nuns outnumbered the lay teachers. I didn’t understand or know many of Christ’s teachings during those years but that one stuck with me because it told me that Christ loved us kids no matter how noisy and unruly we could be.
Taking this thought a step further, this passage came to my mind again in recent weeks as I’ve had the honor to witness my youngest child take his first steps and continue at an unbelievable pace. My son is almost a year old and the progress he makes on a daily basis makes me feel like as busy as we adults can be, it doesn’t seem we’re making the same advancement as this little guy. He greets each day with an awe-inspiring smile in the morning, ready to receive whatever the adventures du jour are.
So in simple framework exegesis, we can agree that this short passage alludes to the impatience and annoyance that Christ’s inner circle initially felt at people crowding him with their babies and children beckoning for touch/acceptance/blessing. They tried to shoo them away and Jesus immediately “rebuked” them and then called the young to him directly while declaring that it should be understood that we must try to be like our children in order accept the gift of the kingdom of God.
While in church with my children, I must remind myself to not get trapped by the concerns of sticking to the current status quo in regards to how well we sit, stand and whatever other physical ritual we have in our worship time. What is most important for our children to know and understand? That they are loved and accepted. That they are desired and destined for greatness in their individual development. That love is God’s gift to us all and we are able to receive it and share it.
These restless and tiresome years with the little ones are so fleeting and one day they’ll have more challenges than we’d care for them to have to encounter. However, we can learn from them right now how to accept that there is nothing we can do to earn or win the love of God. It just Is. Love without fear, doubt or rejection–let’s be like a little child with the kingdom of God at our fingertips.