There are some adorable stories about children’s relationships with God, from their sweet, trusting innocence, to their occasional misunderstandings.
There’s many a child who has spent years thinking that Harold is the name of an angel because of “Hark, the herald Angels sing!” Or that Round John Virgin was at the birth of Christ. In my own family, my grandfather was a Methodist minister. He gave out “diplomas” in a ceremony to the Sunday School Children. One child eagerly ran to his mother saying, “Look at the paper that GOD gave me!”
But we also know that Jesus loves the little children. When the apostles tried to keep the children from bothering him, He said, “”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them,” (Mark 10:13-16).
The Gospel of Matthew recounts the moment like this: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 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.” (Matthew 18:1-5).
Jesus goes on, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven,” (Matthew 18:10).
Too often, when we become adults, we lose the pure innocence of childhood. We harbor doubts. Sometimes, we set our will against the Lord’s. We lose the joy of childhood and the wonder in God’s creation.
Jesus urges us to find that sweet trust again. We must trust in the Lord as completely as the child trusts in their parents. Just as children trust their parents to be wiser, and to know more than they do, we must remember that God is wise beyond words, beyond our comprehension. We must have faith that he knows what is best for us in his great plan.
Children also love, completely and unconditionally. Children are not prejudiced. They don’t hate. They may grow angry, but they do not hate. It is only as they grow that they are taught by their families to hate and distrust others.
Jesus says we must never hate, even in our own heart. We may grow angry, but through prayer we can learn to let go of that anger and not turn it outwards or inwards. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when we are wronged. He encourages us to love all others, strangers, enemies, and even criminals, as completely as we love friends, family, and ourselves.
Jesus also tells us to be joyful. Have you watched a happy child? The look on their faces as they eat sweet fruit, or study a bug on a leaf. They don’t worry about other things they need to be doing. No, they don’t cloud their enjoyment with worries about calories, or what other people will think. They are simply filled with joy.
Children are loving, kind, trusting, and joyful, and Jesus tells us through his apostles, that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.