25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Regardless of places in Scripture where we might think we see Jesus being harsh with the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the time, the passages above show us the heart of Jesus for “little children.” While Jesus certainly loved actual little children, He used their unassuming innocence and humility as examples of what all people in the kingdom of God should be like spiritually; emotionally.
Jesus delights in the fact that the Father has chosen to reveal important spiritual truths, not to those who are wise with the world’s brand of knowledge, but to people who are little children in the ways of the world; who look to Him for knowledge and meaning instead of worldly systems.
He uses the little child called into their midst as a way of describing for the disciples what greatness looks like in heaven. He says, “Unless you change and become like little children.” Then He refers specifically to humility. We could ask if He was saying that we have to humble ourselves like a little child humbles himself or herself or was He saying that in order to be like a little child we would have to humble ourselves? Either way, the end result will be the same. The little children are as you find them. Awkward, still believing, still trusting, shy, not wanting the focus on themselves, teachable, quick to forgive, quick to forget, aware of his or her smallness and weakness, untainted by the cynicism and disillusionment of disappointment.
As I have pondered my own life–what I am like now and what kind of childhood I had, etc.—I am aware of a defensiveness and an anger in me, deeply seated, that goes back to a time when I was just a little child. In many ways I did not have a typical childhood. There were things that I was exposed to too soon. Wrongs done to me that were unfair but that went unnoticed by anyone who could have helped. I don’t harbor ill-will to anyone for those things but I am aware of their impact.
Having my own children, I have been the recipient of tremendous blessings as I have interacted with them—loving them, receiving love from them, observing them at every innocent stage—and those experiences have gone a long way to mend my own heart and to bring healing to me where I have needed it. As I have protected and participated in their respective childhoods, I have had a chance to observe what little children are like and have been challenged to allow the Lord to create that heart in me again.
The thing I am stricken by is the realization that you cannot be defensive and humble at the same time. You cannot be angry and humble at the same time. You have to leave the place of humility to engage in defensiveness and anger. If my desire is to live my life in the Presence of God, to perpetually cultivate and maintain a heart of worship, I have to put away anger and defensiveness. To respond to someone in anger I have to, in essence, leave the Presence of God, take up the anger or issue that triggers my defensiveness, act on it, and then find my way back into the Presence of God. And guess what? I have to do that even if I don’t respond externally. If I become defensive and angry in my heart it threatens to pulls me out of the Presence of God and extinguish my heart of worship.
So, I am imagining what life would be like if I did not defend myself. What would life be like if I did not allow displeasure with circumstances to arouse my anger? Is that possible? Won’t people run over me? What would happen if I simply waited on God in every situation?