Saturday, July 12, 2008

What does it mean to have a child-like faith?

“Please God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here.” When Jenny mutters those words with Forrest in a cornfield near the back of her trashy house, I cannot help but to acknowledge the beauty of that scene. The one thing I love about children is how quickly they can break a smile upon my face.

I have worked with children (K-3rd Grade) for the last 5 years of my life. Back in May when I worked in an elementary school near Biola through the American Reads Program, I witnessed what I would call a normal act for a five year old, but something quite precious for even a busy college student like me. It was enough for me to mutter a simple prayer of thanks for the simplicity and innocence of children. One of the girls colored me a rose and handed it to me. To her, it could have been the David statue or the ‘The Scream,’ yet to the average person it was quite mundane. Then on my final day of work, all the children wrote a Thank you note for working with them and their reading.

This summer, I have once again had the privilege of working with children. Everyday we run summer camps much like VBS or day camps. There are songs and ice breakers in the morning, creek time, games, arts and crafts, kickball, whiffle ball and dodgeball. While the activities throughout the day can be mundane, it is truly the children who bring me joy in my job. One boy named Daniel (we like to call him Big-D) does the Chiggy dance like you’ve never seen one do it before, tries to freestyle rap, and he is a master at chess. He is only 5 years old and probably 3 foot nothing. The guy is hilarious.

It would exhaust my fingers to go into detail in why I love working with children. One of the reasons could be that their innocence allows you to lead them in the admonition of the Lord. They’re such simplistic and basic beings that I cannot help but to love their excitement for the unrecognizable events of the day. Everyday I scan the playground for rolly-polly’s with the children, push the screaming kids on the swings, and read Clifford and Dr. Seuss to them. Some could say that the reward is signing the paycheck every other week and others could say the reward is receiving a coloring of a rose by a 5 year old that couldn’t sell for a quarter. Either way, loving these children is a way for me to nostalgically recall my childhood and to realize the importance Christians can have on the tomorrow’s generation. It breaks my heart that many children who are quite innocent and cute now may end up living a life of the world in a short several years.

So if children are such basic and simple beings, why then does the Bible say to be like one? Matthew 18:1-6 states, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

This passage teaches me several things:

  • We are to have a child like faith
  • One must humble himself as if he becomes a child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven
  • There is great responsibility in bringing children up in the Lord

Thus, it appears to me that faith requires a simplistic nature. After discussing certain theological topics that I cannot wrap my mind around, I find it amazing that God calls us to simplicity and faith that is quite simple to enter the Kingdom of God. The purpose of changing and becoming a little one is to be humble. While the pursuit of truth is good for the soul, there is this ironic breakdown in which God calls us to be ‘simple like children’ so we may be humble. However, there is a problem I find with this, because literally speaking, children are hardly humble beings. It seems like they are always boasting about catching the biggest fish and telling about their day. How are we to be humble like children then? It is a question I cannot answer unless I examine the possibility that Matthew is talking about humbleness in their simplicity. Because a child’s intelligence is inferior to an adults, we adults must humble ourselves to the form of children to enter God’s Kingdom. Finally, the responsibility in raising children is quite a task. Matthew doesn’t use confusing language. He says, either raise a child in the Lord or lead him to sin and drown yourself in the depths of the sea. He leaves no room for error in the manner which children should be raised.

In the end, I cannot conclude my thoughts regarding this ‘childlike faith’ that Matthew requires us to have. Sure we are to pursue truth and be knowledgeable beings, but when all is said and done, all we need is humility and simple faith of a child. May the Lord bless everyone always. His faithfulness is everlasting.

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