Monday, December 9, 2013

The Little Children

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Steve Slater

Mark 10:13-16 (NKJV)  Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.  Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."  And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.
I’ve been thinking about that passage and, yesterday morning, one of our staff pastors used it in his introduction.  The combination of what Pastor Brian Lange had to say, and the direction God took my thoughts, is worth considering.  

Maybe it’s the increase in child oriented programming that the holiday season brings on that got me thinking about children. Let’s start with the passage that begins this post. The disciples were very wrapped up in their spiritual gleaning from Jesus.   So much so that they got upset when people started bringing children to Jesus.  We can even picture Mark himself thinking,  “Why do they bring kids here?   This spiritual learning is adult stuff.”.

Much like a home at Christmas time, with a bunch of children gathered, things may start quietly, but the activity and excitement ramp up to a boiling point.  And the adults mentally are hoping for peace and quiet to return soon.   That could very well be the disciples’ thinking, at this point.   However, we see Jesus correct that viewpoint.  So, let’s lay the foundation for our thought.  

Pastor Lange mentioned three stages of mental maturation.  Up till age 5, children learn 85% of what goes into who they will be for the rest of their lives.  Between then and their midteens, they’re still learning, but much of what’s going on is sorting things out.  The personality is being formed, how trusting they will be is being determined, what they believe or are capable of believing is being set.  And, from that point, somewhere in their midteens, our children have the capacity for adult thought.  

I know.  I was ready to question the third stage, too, until I thought about it.  Go back to Biblical times.  Or even America in the 1800s.  Lifespans were shorter, there was less to learn.  By midteens, young men and women were living adult life.  The cycle that Pastor Lange spoke of was the norm.  That last stage has changed in modern times. It now seems to start later.  Is that real or is it forced by our lust for knowledge and how we guide our children?   That’s really for another discussion.  We want to stay focused on those first two stages in a special way.  

When we look at our starting passage, Jesus wanted the children to come to Him.  And He said something really interesting.  That the kingdom is made up of children and that we should receive (or take, or accept) the kingdom of God like little children.  While the disciples were negative about children’s possible rowdiness, Jesus was looking at the nature of those first two stages.  Those times of learning and sorting out were also one long period of openness, receptivity, trust, and wonder.  Children are more ready to receive spiritual truth than their parents are.  That sense of awe and the ability to imagine things unseen seems to disappear when we become “adult”.  

In this passage, Jesus wants us to latch onto our "inner child", that part of us that is still capable of seeing the unseen, of seeing things with wonder, and of becoming real citizens of the kingdom of God.  Without that, we miss so much of what it is to be a Christ follower.  There's more to be said about children and childhood.  We'll get to that, Friday.  In the meantime, there's something to consider.  How's your spiritual inner child doing, today?

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