Anyone who has read this blog for a while will notice how often I talk about the lessons of parenthood. My children are two of the greatest teachers of what it means to love Jesus, and I am often humbled by the lessons I learn from them.
Last night, as we were sitting down to supper, my son (2 1/2) was playing with his favorite cup, which was filled with milk at the time. I have to admit that this particular cup is pretty awesome. It is shapes like a cone filter with bright colorful pictures of Lightning McQueen from the Disney movie Cars on it. At the base of the funnel is a clear ball that spins when you play with it, and inside the ball is a tiny little replica of the Lightning McQueen car.
My son loves this cup! He loves it so much, in fact, that last night at the dinner table he began to tell the little Lightning McQueen about Jesus. At first I thought he was singing Jesus Loves Me, which would have been astounding enough (I’ve not heard him sing it so clearly before), but then I realized that he was talking to the car, saying “Jesus loves you.”
Fast forward to this morning. As I was prepping some things for the day in our kitchen, my daughter (almost 5) wandered past with Sarah (my wife) and said to her, “If we don’t praise God, even the rocks and the wind will praise Him.” It was a very simple, yet profound rephrasing of Luke 19:39-40.
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Through my children, I am beginning to understand more and more what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18:
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I have heard it said many times that Jesus is here indicating that we must have a child-like faith in that it is unquestioning, non-judging. I don’t think this understanding does justice to the faith of children, who, while trusting, are also very discerning.
When I read this passage now, what I understand Jesus to be saying is that we must all become like children in that our faith cultivates in us a focused enjoyment of God and a sure trust in Him, not based on a non-judging, whimsical hope, but founded on a confidence that God loves us and draws us to himself. It is a faith that cannot remain self-referenced. It is a faith directed toward God, and as a direct consequence it is a faith that cannot help but pour out love upon those around us.
My children understand that Jesus loves them. Their response is an unrelenting love in return; a love that doesn’t stop with God-talk, though there is plenty of that in our household (praise God), but continues into a sharing of that loving relationship with others through evangelism and proclamation.
Before anyone begins to dissect this too much and begin quoting evangelism strategies to me, let me say this. Evangelism is telling others about the Good News of Jesus Christ, plain and simple. It implies proclamation of the Word, which is the witness of God’s mighty acts in Christ. When children tell others that Jesus loves them and quote Bible verses like they are a natural part of their vocabulary (something I wish I did more often), they are engaging in one of the purest forms of evangelism there is. They are sharing their evangelistic hearts, transformed by a loving God.
Would that we all learn to live with the faith of little children.