Thursday, June 25, 2015

Moving from "Childish" faith to "Childlike" faith

Mark 10:13-16
13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12
11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I [d]became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror [e]dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 

I believe we sometimes confuse "childlike" with "childish". It's easy enough to do. Maybe we can't help it, it's just the way we are. 

There is a huge difference though, one that, if we fail to realize it, could mean we miss out on the best God has for us.

There was one time, just for some fun, I convinced my nieces (both currently under the age of 10) that in order to catch the gummy fish they loved so much, fishermen had to use gummy worms. It seemed to make sense to them as they began telling their mom (my sister) and their grandmother that as though it were fact.

We have all done something like this, right? Tried to convince a child of something that just isn't true, seeing how far we can take their belief? But have you often thought why they will believe?

Children can be very trusting. Most of their time their experience with the world has been limited. Loving parents try to shield as much of the world from their children as they can. Childhood is a very precious time in which the wonder of the world can be experienced without any pretenses or cynicism.

The children Jesus wanted to bless had not yet been taken in by the politics that dominated the first century of Palestine. They hadn't involved themselves in the debates that took place in the synagogues or the Temple. They weren't motivated by one group or another. Many of them may have just been becoming aware of the larger surrounding world, but it was still something new to them.

These children did not try to trap Jesus into an answer. They didn't make demands of Him. They didn't try to push any preconceived notions on Him of who He should be, or what He should do. There was simply awe, and wonder, and a willingness to simply believe. There was a readiness to believe.

The disciples maybe saw the children as a bother. He was much too important a rabbi and long hoped for Messiah to be surrounded by children, with their games, and their lack of understanding the greater issues. He was much too busy for them, or so the disciples thought.

When we worship in church on Sunday, is it with the childlike wonder, the lack of pretense, the willingness and readiness to believe God is who He says He is? Is the reason we don't see the power of the Holy Spirit at work calling us to live holy lives at work in our churches is because we have brought too much of our own baggage and cynicism into the church? Have we lost the ability to just simply believe and be led by the Holy Spirit?

Or perhaps have we interpreted "childlike" to mean "childish"?

As a pastor I deal with a lot of drama, and most of it is from people who really should know better. People who are supposedly mature in their faith. Many of them have attended church and professed Christ for several years. It isn't my place to dispute that, but I do wonder:
  • Have they progressed in their spiritual development as a child of God from when they initially believed to the present?
  • Are they more wrapped up in their immediate gratification than in the patience that the Holy Spirit provides us with in waiting on God's time?
  • Do they throw a temper tantrum when something doesn't go their way?
With all the wonder of childhood, childishness is not often tolerated. Children can be extremely self centered. We don't like it when one child picks on another because they can't get to a toy they want to play with, and we try to get them to see that is not acceptable behavior. We look around, often in embarrassment, when a child starts screaming in a store because his mother won't buy him candy. He may even go so far as to stomp his feet.

Just because they are children doesn't mean they are allowed to act however they want. At some point they are going to become adults, and they need to know what proper behavior is so that they can relate to others in an appropriate way.

When the Apostle Paul writes that for a time he acted like a child and spoke like a child. But there came a time when the childishness of his life was done, and he matured. Did he ever lose his sense of wonder for God? The gospel? His mission to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth? No, I don't believe he ever did.

That, among other things, is the tension we deal with. At the time of our spiritual birth we are given God's presence in our lives, the Holy Spirit, to help us grow and mature so that we look more and more like Him. Each new day in His presence though should bring with it awe and wonder, because each new day brings with it new ways in which God can and will reveal Himself at work in our lives and in our world. But that does not give us a license to act how we want to, especially when the way we act shows a lack of maturity and looks more like a spoiled child who didn't get his way.  

I am thankful for the ways I experienced God throughout my childhood, and I am grateful that I have been given His Holy Spirit to make me into the child of God I am today. And I will be looking forward to the ways I'll mature tomorrow without ever losing that sense of wonder at who God is. 

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