Like Little Children

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Like Little Children

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An interesting mix of cultures passed by our airplane window as my wife and I flew from eastern Arabia across the length of Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, and over their respective capital cities of Tehran, Baku, and Moscow. The earth is covered with God’s children who are submerged in a myriad of conflicting traditions, prejudices, and religions—a sampling of these peoples was sequestered together on our airplane. All of God’s children, created with marvelous diversity, are passionately pursuing their lives. But we each have been misled in that quest, and tend to spoil our lives more than fulfill them.

As children of Adam, humans are highly impressionable and have an open receptiveness to outside influence (Romans 5:12-14 Romans 5:12-14 [12] Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned: [13] (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. [14] Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
American King James Version×
). Humanity readily adopts the mindset of its father the devil who promotes hatred and deception (John 8:44 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×
). Wouldn’t it be nice for us all to have a do-over, a fresh chance to receive pure information from a truthful Father and live the right way? In God’s Kingdom humans will experience that new Father. They will see a dramatic change and will live differently (Jeremiah 3:19 Jeremiah 3:19But I said, How shall I put you among the children, and give you a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, You shall call me, My father; and shall not turn away from me.
American King James Version×
).

As we prepare to celebrate the coming of God’s Kingdom, we might ask, “Who will He welcome into it?” Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15 Mark 10:15Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
American King James Version×
), and then proceeded to bless little children. This passage gives us an admonition to be among those to whom He will give the special blessing of salvation. We should pause to consider what it means to become like the little children that He blessed.

Traits of little children

In the Western culture, one typically encounters little children when they are outside the home. But since the Western lifestyle tends to stay inside the home, seeing the traits of little children comes only in brief glimpses. In contrast, rural African families spend much of their lives outdoors, which lends to an endless display of the lives of little ones. In such an environment, one can more easily witness the traits of little children. During my twenty-two visits to Africa and constant observation of children, I have learned more about the statement Jesus made above.

One trait of a young African child is in the naive response to things that are new to them. A unique example of that trait is displayed each time an mzungu (white man) abruptly steps into the environment of a child. A toddler’s eyes will widen, his heart rate increases, and shock or panic may ensue at the sight of an mzungu. He may cry, try to hide, or attempt to run away. The father of one such boy told me that his toddler was afraid that I might eat him!

However, as a child enters the talking stage of life, their reactions become quite pleasant. Their minds quickly assess that the pale thing before them is human. Their mouths drop open, they gasp, and they squeal with excitement. This is combined with jumping legs, waving hands, and big smiles. Little hands reach up to shake, touch, and then stroke the curious looking flesh, followed by an innocent check to see if any white rubbed off.

Sometimes they walk with you, holding your hand for as long as possible. A few have declared us to be their new parents or grandparents. The little boy who at age two thought I might eat him, informed us at age four that he would be coming to live with us. The mind of a child is not merely open to new concepts; it is responsive, trusting, and exuberant in its embrace of them.

What the apostle John wrote speaks to us as little children in a relationship with a new Father. Our reaction upon discovering God should be like that of little children—responsive, trusting, and exuberant in embracing the mindset of our loving God. Additionally, we should treat each other as little children who love others. They embrace, forgive, and forget. “You are of God, little children… Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of [engendered by] God and knows God” (1 John 4:4-7 1 John 4:4-7 [4] You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. [5] They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world hears them. [6] We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is not of God hears not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. [7] Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added).

Traits change as children grow

Sadly, the minds of little children change as they grow up, as evidenced by the maturing reactions to mzungus. By school age, the innocence has faded, replaced by a polite indifference. Then, by adolescence there is typically no response at all—just empty stares.

If not careful, God’s little children can grow up, too. Jesus’ statement warns us about becoming un-childlike in our receiving of His Kingdom and His mindset. Consider again His words to us, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15 Mark 10:15Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
American King James Version×
). Hopefully, the above example of how children of various ages react to a newcomer gives some insight as to how we also might react to God’s appearance in our lives. God’s calling goes out to many (Matthew 22:4 Matthew 22:4Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatted calves are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage.
American King James Version×
), but He says that few respond appropriately (Matthew 22:5 Matthew 22:5But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
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, 14). He wants our response to be like that of little children.

Let us endeavor to become as little children in God’s eyes. If we do so, Jesus will also give us the blessing He symbolized with those toddlers that He held (Matthew 25:34 Matthew 25:34Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
American King James Version×
).