Tuesday Re-mix –
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. 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 18:1-3
Have you ever noticed that, when it comes to choosing playmates, children don’t seem to be bothered by any of the same concerns which we hold? When we find out that our child has taken more than a passing interest in another child, we have a thousand questions about that child…and we are frustrated when our child doesn’t know the answers to ANY of them. Where does she go to church? What does he believe? Who are his parents? What does her daddy do for a living? Where does he live? WHAT IS HIS/HER LAST NAME? And when we ask, we get nothing from our own child about any of these concerns. Because children just don’t care about these things when choosing a playmate.
Of course, the longer they live in the world, the more and more the world teaches them about what “really matters” when it comes to judging people. Unless they are intentional about staying childlike, they begin to lose this ability to connect with anyone and everyone irrespective of outward appearance or social status or even belief systems. This makes me sad. And I believe it makes Jesus sad too.
This post comes on the heels of last week’s post about generational differences in the church today, specifically, how Gen X’ers and Millennials tend to BELONG first, and BELIEVE second and what that teaches us about how we connect with people in the church. Today, I am pinning that concept to a teaching from Jesus, because I firmly believe that the generational changes washing across the church’s landscape today DID NOT catch Jesus by surprise.
Jesus insisted that having a certain “childlikeness” is more than just helpful to a Christian…it is critical. And the more I meditate on His words in Matthew 18:2-3, the bigger and broader that concept becomes to me. I have long understood “childlikeness” to include childlike faith and childlike love and childlike vulnerability (see this post for that lesson). Now I am also understanding that the childlikeness to which we are called is also about how we connect to each other, i.e., how “community” happens among us.
I have become certain that being the New Testament church requires that we learn to connect with people without regard to all of the exterior characteristics the world teaches us to consider. Moreover, I believe there is even some level of connection which we must learn without regard to what a person believes. In short, I believe that part of the childlikeness to which we are called is a childlike willingness to play alongside others who look different, who think differently, and who believe things very different from what we believe. I believe Jesus was signaling this with His words in Matthew 18.
There are two adult generations today who are already shaped by a desire for this kind of connection. It just so happens that my own children are a part of those generations. They taught me when they were children, and they are teaching me as adults as well…about what childlikeness means.