“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Mk. 10:15
I’ve read this verse many times. I’ve read it to kids and asked them what they thought Jesus meant. I’ve read it to adults and posed the same question. I’ve read it to myself and thought, “Hmm, He must not have been talking about my kids because after that bedtime fiasco, I’m fairly certain that is how NOT to receive the kingdom of God.”
But the other day, I heard my four-year old son yelling for me. “Mom!!” he yelled, “Come see this. It’s amazing. It’s so pwetty. Come see, come see!!” I came running expecting a sparkling unicorn or a huge pile of diamonds. Okay not really, but I thought it had to be something pretty spectacular. So imagine my surprise when I came out of the house to see him peering intently over a cluster of common clover. There weren’t even pretty purple buds. Just clover leaves.
“Very nice, Caleb,” I sighed as I started back inside when his little hand touched mine. “Come see Mom!” he pleaded with his adorable big brown eyes that melt my heart so… I came. I knelt. I looked at the clover, the boring, ordinary, not-even-four-leaf clover. And as I did, he knelt next to me and said, “Do you see how pwetty? See da hearts? The flower is saying, ‘I love you!’ I love you Mom!” And with that he gave me a kiss and a bouquet of dandelions and clover leaves.
Oh. My. Goodness. Be still my mommy heart! And then it clicked…
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” Matt. 13:44
And kids can see treasure where we see ordinary.
They can see beauty where we see everyday.
They can see miracles where we see commonplace.
They see slowly, we hurry by.
They receive the kingdom of heaven with abandon and joy; we test it with reason and logic. Is it any wonder then that Jesus tells us that “unless we change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven?”
My blog posts about inviting and welcoming children into intergenerational and corporate worship settings have caused quite a stir. The biggest question? Simply this – Why? Why would you force kids to stay in a service that is oriented for adults when there are other options? Why make them be a part of something they can’t even understand?
And my short answer has been this: Because they are members of the body of Christ, important and necessary parts of the body that should be welcomed and engaged in our times of worship.
But my other answer is this: Because WE need their eyes. We need their faith. We need the kingdom of heaven in our midst and they are the ones that Jesus told us know how to receive it. We are supposed to learn from them. We are the students when it comes to child-like faith.
It isn’t a one-way street. It’s not just us adjusting our church ways so that they can come and learn from us. It is about us giving them space to teach us. And us being humble enough to learn. To put our hands in their hands and see flowers that say I love you and beauty in ordinary weeds. To receive the kingdom of heaven.
“He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Mt. 13:31, 32.
A mustard seed. The smallest of all. But when it grows…when it grows it is a mighty tree. The small become mighty. The little mustard seeds we call children are going to grow. If we let them grow in the soil of the church, surrounded by adults willing to humbly welcome them, learn with them, and receive with them, then what mighty men and women they will become.
Jesus practiced slow seeing a great deal, which often led to astonishing results. For example, one famous Gospel narrative has a child with a small picnic lunch saving the day. When the disciples saw the lad, they saw him as living proof of the scarcity of food amid the crowd that had gathered to hear Jesus. They looked too quickly. Jesus, however, looked at the child longer. He saw his innocence; he saw his potential; he saw his anticipation, he saw the Holy. The result was a memorable miracle of abundance making. If Jesus had merely glanced at the child, barely noticing him, then the miracle would not have happened. The lavish miracle is due to the lavish looking, the extravagant seeing.
–Addicted to Hurry, Kirk Byron Jones, p. 74
Slow down. See, truly see. See the children who believe without doubt the Jesus loves them. See how they pray with faith we can only imagine. See how they expect God to meet with them, to be with them, to laugh with them. And receive the kingdom of God, like a child.
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.