LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN
My wife (Marcia) and I have the enormous privilege of being Grandparents. It is reminding us of when we had our own children some 30 years ago. The joy of seeing them and their joy in seeing us, their delight in wanting us to participate with them in what they are doing and even more so their simple trust in us (and more so their parents) is wonderful.
An oft misunderstood verse is Matthew 18:3 (see also Mark 10:14; Luke 18:17)
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Many equate childlike faith as childish faith, but this is not the case. The first resonates with and embraces the neediness, dependency, and smallness of those who understand their place in the kingdom of God. The second simply refuses to grow up.
CHILDLIKE, NOT CHILDISH
Over and over again in the New Testament we see the apostles encourage Believers to mature as Christians—to grow up in the gospel. Paul exhorts the church in Corinth toward Christian maturity, insisting that the apostolic wisdom he imparts will be grasped by the “mature [teleiois in greek]” (1 Cor. 2:6). Later he writes: “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature [teleioi]” (1 Cor. 14:20).
Paul isn’t contradicting Jesus’s teaching about becoming like a child in order to inherit God’s kingdom. He is simply recognising that having childlike faith does not mean celebrating childish thinking. In fact, he informs the Colossians that the focus and aim of his ministry is maturity: “Him (Jesus) we proclaim, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, in order that we may present everyone mature [teleion] in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Col. 1:28–29)
Embracing childlike faith means we accept that Christ’s call to kingdom greatness looks like service and not harsh ruling, meekness and not selfish ambition, and continual dependence on God’s grace. Anyone who has pursued service, meekness, and dependence will tell you these characteristics don’t come easily to sinners. In fact, true childlike faith sees the necessity of growth in these areas and turns to Jesus as the one source of life and strength.
It takes theologically driven, Spirit-empowered wisdom and maturity to excel in these things. May we grow out of childish faith into childlike faith—faith that makes our Father in heaven look great.
SIMPLE, BUT DEEP
In a webinar I recently attended, the speaker said that one of the challenges was to understand the complexity of the city. The city, he said, always has ‘crisis’ in it. It is always complex. It has so many different systems and subcultures and is so highly intricate, that we will need multiple models to reach it. Hence the need for a movement of church plants to reach our cities. At the same time, I had been reflecting on the need for a ‘simple faith’, a ‘simple trust’ – not simple in the sense of ignorant or blind, but simple in the sense of straight forward, uncomplicated, single-focused and yet profound – and wanted to bring complexity and simple together!
In the continuum between Understanding and Faith we must always remember that Faith is the key to unlocking understanding and not vice-a-versa. Even more so, a simple, single-focus, faith will enable us to unravel the complexity of the city (and life as well!) so that we can can join the Lord in what he wants us to be and do.
Margaret Becker wrote a song called ‘Simple House’, it includes the lines:
“This house is a holy house, Always under construction….
I wanna live in a simple house,
This house looks the best,
When it’s not cluttered with opinions,
When only the words from the Landlord’s mouth
Have absolute dominion,
From His lips, His lips alone,
I want to furnish my humble home,
I wanna live in a simple house.”
This idea, then, of a desire to ‘live in a simple house, a holy house’ is the key to understanding the complexity of our modern world-class cities. If our trust in Jesus is straightforward, uncomplicated, deep and profound, it will result in us each being a vessel in which our first reaction to anything is to look to the Saviour, to be expecting Him to speak, expecting Him to be the one who furnishes our house, so that we can respond to the complexity of life.