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Does He Really Mean That?

Jesus’ conversation in Matthew 18 with his disciples has similarities to his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. After Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven, the logical question followed of how a person can go through that process again. We don’t hear the disciples’ response in Matthew 18. They must have wondered what Jesus expected them to do with this. In Matthew 18:1-5 we find:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Why Return To Childhood?

Jesus told his disciples if they didn’t become like children, they would never enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s a heavy consequence. So why is this demanded by Jesus? Many reasons could be given, but two surface in my mind. First, I think Jesus is saying to learn how to live in my kingdom you have to start over. You have to return to childhood and relearn everything. Second, I think Jesus is saying you’re going to be provided for. Ideally a child’s needs are taken care of.

How Do We Do It?

But how? How do we practically live this out? This seems contrary to the Scriptural calls to grow-up and mature. In addition, we naturally don’t like feeling dependent on others. As with so many truths, one truth is not abandoned by embracing an apparent contrasting truth. I have experienced 3 ways of living out this truth of becoming like a child in the kingdom.

1. Welcoming Children by Being with Them

When I am with children I experience the presence of Christ and come into kingdom life. I experience this working with Awana. On the one hand, the kid’s simple questions feed my own faith. On the other, they test my patience (and a lot of other virtues), which reveals how much work I need. Welcoming the interaction with kids puts me in contact with Jesus.

2. Re-family-ing Ourselves in Kingdom Community

In the context of the church community, a kind of kingdom re-family-ing transpires. I experience this in small groups I’m involved. I’m kind of a small group junkie. I am in four groups that meet either every week or every other week. I have found myself watching someone in the group and feeling a reprograming happen in my heart as I downloaded what a person said or watched how a person behaved. I feel like a child deciding to imitate a big brother or sister. Children learn to inhabit the world by imitation. The same occurs in learning to inhabit the kingdom.

3. Surrendering Our Futures by Trusting the Father

Children are vulnerable. There is a forced-humility children are subjugated to. Children require others to protect and provide. Unfortunately, some children do not have anyone to rely on who have their best in mind. That is not the case in the kingdom of heaven though. We can humbly surrender ourselves, trusting a good God has our best in mind. Like carefree kids, we can walk into the future knowing the kingdom of heaven is our Father’s.

What About You?

What would it look like for you to change and become like a child with the issue you are worrying about most right now?

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