“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me (Mt 18:3-5).
The above response Jesus gave was to the disciple’s question regarding who is the greatest in heaven. Jesus offers an unexpected response, as children had no esteem, honor, or greatness in his society. Jesus was not pointing out so much the innocence of children, but emphasizing that children were completely dependent on others for their very survival.
If we are to embark or stay on the journey that will lead us to the Kingdom of heaven, we need to do the same. We need to give our control and apparent, self-sufficiency over to God and place our dependence on him alone. We need to depend on God as would an infant or young child depends on their parents.
Very young children have not developed a defensive filter and they say what is on their mind, often with precise insights! How often do we do the opposite by automatically responding in a defensive manner, thinking about how we will be received or fearing an ulterior motive from the question? Jesus has taught us that our yes is to be yes, and our no is to be no, and anything more is from the evil one (cf. Mt 5:37). As his disciples, Jesus calls us to be humble, to admit to our sins, our mistakes, to confess, correct, and learn from them.
We grow in humility when we take responsibility for our actions, turn away from that which we place before God, and release those biases and idols that can lead us down the path of prejudice. We also do so when we resist the allures of material, apparent goods, and our own self-centered postures, which so often can lead us to the imprisonment of addiction. We can avoid many of these pitfalls when we follow the instruction of Jesus to “become like children”. This is more likely to happen when we depend more on God, surrender our control, and place our trust in him. By doing so, we can build a firmer foundation of truth and humility, we will begin to find that we will be more satisfied, fulfilled, and be less defensive and more present to those in need.
We live in a fallen world and there is a temptation to buy into the idea that “might makes right” and “the prize belongs to the survival of the fittest”. This attitude supports a belief in separateness and diminishes the reality of our interconnectedness. We are all wounded, a bit beaten up by life, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and in need of God’s healing touch. Instead of assuming a defensive posture or taking offense when presented with negativity and thus contributing to the growing division and darkness, may we instead align ourselves with God and ask him to love others through us, even those who may not appear to be so loveable. We could all use a little more support, empathy, and kindness especially now. We are all children of God and whoever receives one child in Jesus’ name receives him (cf. Mt 18:5). Let us be that healing balm to each other that is so needed.
Photo: One of my favorite pictures of my nephew Nicholas and me some time ago. He is now 24! Life goes very fast. Make the time to tell and show those you love that you love them.