Yes, you read that correctly. I want to be Peter Pan! You remember Peter Pan—the boy who flew around Neverland with his friends, never growing up. Normally, being considered a “Peter Pan” is a bad thing—refusing to take on adult responsibilities, playing all the time, being an unproductive member of society who never commits to an adult relationship. I don’t want to be Peter Pan in that way; I do want to retain some child-like qualities, however, so I can enter the Kingdom of God.
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16 NLT)
I want to be child-like in ways that will allow me entrance to God’s Kingdom! There are some qualities that little ones possess, that we as adults too often lose as adolescents. What are some of the characteristics of children that Christians should strive to maintain, even as adults?
They are innocent, humble and guileless—children put on no pretenses. They are pretty much “what you see is what you get.” And what you get in a young child is marvelous and very precious—an innocent curiosity about, and wonder of, the world around them; a natural hunger to learn anything and everything they can; simple love and acceptance of people; an honest trust in people and the proclivity to forgive offenses. And the Bible tells us that, even as adults, we should be this way. Here are a few examples to illustrate what I mean:
- And He called a little child to Himself and put him in the midst of them, and said, Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven[at all]. Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving] is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives and accepts and welcomes one little child like this for My sake and in My name receives and accepts and welcomes Me. (Matthew 18:2-5 AMPC)
- Brothers and sisters, do not be children [immature, childlike] in your thinking; be infants in [matters of] evil [completely innocent and inexperienced], but in your minds be mature [adults]. (1 Corinthians 14:20 AMP)
- Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, of all deceit, hypocrisy and envy, and of all the ways there are of speaking against people; and be like newborn babies, thirsty for the pure milk of the Word; so that by it, you may grow up into deliverance. For you have tasted that Adonai is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3 CJB)
Children depend on their parents to teach them right from wrong, and the proper way to live life. They are constantly watching the adults around them to learn about their world, and they imitate what they see—good or bad. As God’s children, we should approach learning and life with that same dependence on, and imitation of, our Heavenly Father. The Word of God is pretty clear in Proverbs 3:1 about the importance of a child’s attitude and discipline—Children with good sense accept correction from their parents, but stubborn children ignore it completely. (CEV) The Amplified Bible says it this way, “A wise son heeds and accepts [and is the result of] his father’s discipline and instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to reprimand and does not learn from his errors.” And Ephesians 5:1-2 is unambiguous about how we are to live life, especially in The Message translation: “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.” Have you ever known a child who did not throw caution to the wind and love extravagantly? Haven’t you been the recipient of a beautiful wild “flower” (many times, a dandelion) or tight bear hugs and repeated, sloppy kisses from a child in your life? I have, and it was, and still is, glorious when it happens! Little children love with abandon and without prejudice, and as children of the Most High King and followers of Christ, we are to do so, too.
Little children don’t worry. They do not dwell on horrible things, or focus on what is wrong in their world. They think “happy” thoughts, and completely trust that their parents can, and will, take care of them and fix whatever goes wrong. A kiss on a boo-boo goes a long way in helping a child feel better! Just knowing that they are loved, and believing that the adults in their lives have the power to correct wrongs, keep life right for a child. The same goes for us as adults—knowing that God loves us and has the power and desire to right our wrongs keeps our lives on an even keel. So Paul urges us to be like children in our thought patterns—And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT) Notice, the scripture says “fix” your thoughts. When something is “fixed” on something else, it is not going to be moved. In fact, Dictionary.com defines “fix” as: to put in order or in good condition; adjust or arrange; to make fast, firm, or stable; to place definitely and more or less permanently; to settle definitely; determine; to direct (the eyes, the attention, etc.) steadily. Like children, we need to think “happy” thoughts, and trust wholeheartedly that our Heavenly Father will take care of us (that’s a whole message in itself, and for another time).
Finally, children make good witnesses for our Lord. I recently heard two stories about children proclaiming good news to the people in their lives. In one instance, a five-year-old girl was telling her infant brother that “God made this whole world—just for you! You know why? Because He loves you!” How sweet is that?!?!! And what a powerful witness that will be if she proclaims it again and again in her baby brother’s life. Yes, these children are being raised by a God-fearing, God-loving family. The little girl has a firm foundation in our Lord. But she also lacks the “fear” that many of us as adults have, even those of us with firm foundations, of proclaiming the Good News.
The other story involves a six-year-old boy. This child hasn’t been to church; he is being raised by his single mom, an outspoken atheist. But they are living in the household of his grandmother, a believing Christian. Several weeks after his great-grandfather died, the boy was riding in the car with his grandmother and mother. As they were passing the cemetery where his great-grandfather was buried, the boy insisted that they stop to visit his grandpa’s burial site. The women thought that this was strange because the child had not been at his great-grandfather’s funeral, nor had he been to the cemetery. But they decided to stop to visit the gravesite. No sooner had the car stopped than the boy jumped out and ran straight to his great-grandfather’s grave! The women were amazed. They asked him how he knew where to go. He replied, “God told me.” But this isn’t the end of the story. A few days after the cemetery incident, the boy asked for paper and crayons—he wanted to write his great-grandpa a letter. He told his mom and his grandmother that God had told him “that Pop-Pop is with Him and he’s happy and is doing just fine!” and he wanted to let his grandpa know that he knew that. Out of the mouth of babes! What a witness to his unbelieving mom! And she didn’t outright reject what her son said; in fact, she put it on social media! So his testimony went out to all her friends; he effectively witnessed to many people. (As an aside, NEVER discount the effect you can have as a Christian on anyone—even unbelievers and those who have not heard the gospel! The believing parents and grandmother clearly had an eternal effect on the children in the stories above.)
In their innocence and openness, children can clearly hear the Lord, and they are not afraid to proclaim what they hear. Oh, that we adults could/would be that way . . . open and listening and proclaiming. We are told to be witnesses like that, in Philippians 2:15-16 (NLT): Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life . . . . The Amplified Bible puts it this way—so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish in the midst of a [morally] crooked and [spiritually] perverted generation, among whom you are seen as bright lights [beacons shining out clearly] in the world [of darkness], holding out and offering to everyone the word of life . . . . The Message paraphrases Paul’s words as, “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns.” It would be pretty hard to misunderstand this directive. Yet so many times, so many of us, including me, ignore it. We don’t necessarily fail at giving glimpses of “good living,” but we’re reluctant to “carry the light-giving Message into the night.” Oh, if that were not the case . . . if only we could be more child-like in carrying the life-giving message of the gospel, what a different world we would live in!
Now that you’ve read this post, would you like to join me in Neverland? Just kidding!—But I do invite you to join me in this effort to become more child-like, so that we may “receive and enter” the Kingdom of God! It surely is an adventure, and it surely is worth every effort!
What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.–1 Corinthians 2:12-13 NIV