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Squishy

April 30, 2012

The sermon this morning was pretty amazing.  Then later I watched this terribly heartbreaking thing on Netflix.  Got me thinking about a great many things.

 

Jesus told his disciples,

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

and again,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I wish I could precisely define what the process of “growing up” does to a person.  Whatever it is, God says to us that when we’re dealing with him, we need to be like children.  But I couldn’t tell you what that means.  I read this and my heart cries out that there’s something in those words just begging to be understood, something important.

The context of that first quote is, the disciples are all gathered around bickering about who is better.  They ask Jesus, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He answers it in such a strange way.  He basically says, “that little kid over there.  Hey, c’mere kid.  Yea this little guy.  He’s the greatest.  Be like him”

So, why?  He’s just a random little kid.  Even to the writers of this book.  He’s never identified, and he never speaks.  There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about him.  There’s nothing that makes him great.  He’s has no accomplishments to speak of.  No way to justify himself.  He’s humble I guess, in the sense that he’s not very self-aware.  But in the end, a little child doesn’t really have anything to offer.  But for the moment let’s take that at face value, even if we don’t quite understand it.

God is saying that to be great, for the kingdom to belong to us, we must be like a child: needy, powerless, ignorant, immature.  And I am absolutely serious about that.  That’s a relief, right?  I got all that covered.  Is that really all God wants from me?

When I stand before God I can’t claim that I never did anything wrong.  I can’t claim that I was a good person.  I didn’t do my best.  I haven’t tried as hard as I could.  My actions haven’t matched my words.  I won’t be able to say, “look at all these great things I did for you.”  I am a little child.  I have nothing–and that’s what he wants from me.

There is no barrier to God’s love.  I am loveable because God said so.  There is no barrier to his gifts either.  He offered me life and I took it.  And approaching God any other way is disastrous.  When we try to offer him our deeds, we miss the point.  We try to justify ourselves.  But we can’t.  We need him to do it for us.

 

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:10-14

 

Reading that and letting it soak in, makes me take a deep breath and smile.  It’s beautiful to behold, really.  The bible says, he who has been forgiven much, loves much.  How else could we ever understand God’s love than as a little child.  We can only accept it when we don’t presume to offer him anything in return.  Only then it’s a gift.  And we are creatures who have been given a great gift.

 

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

Isaiah 55:1-2

and again,

“Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

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