When Jesus pointed to a child, though, he didn’t mean that we ought to be childish. There is something bent and warped about child worship. The fact is Jesus didn’t equate childishness with childlikeness. If that is true, what are those qualities Jesus saw and loved in children? Children are…

Trusting

When Jesus looked at a child, he saw a quality of trust. Have you ever watched the way a child trust his or her parents? Many years ago when we lived on Cape Cod, we had a garage built out beside our house. The pathway between the house and the garage had boards, rocks and everything else in the way. At night, my daughter Robin would refuse to walk out there unless she could hold my hand. Now I couldn’t see any better than she could, but as long as her father held her hand, Robin was willing to go almost anywhere. It was that kind of trust Jesus held up as an example for believers.

Sometimes when we pray in panic, the only answer we get from the Father is, “Trust me.” Just as simple as that, “Trust me.” If we don’t, we can get into trouble.

It’s an old story, but a good one. The bus was careening out of control down a winding road in the mountains. The passengers were panicking…that is, all except one little boy asleep on the back seat. “Why were you not frightened?” someone asked the boy after the bus had finally come to a stop. “Afraid?” the boy asked. “My father is the bus driver.”

Romans 8:28 is applicable to us all as Christians. “All things (your marriage, your financial problems, your hurt, your fear) work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” The Father says, “Trust me.” When you do, you become like a child.

Honest

When Jesus looked at a child, he saw a quality of honesty. How many times have you gone out to dinner, wanting the evening to be so nice, and your child announces, as you enter the host’s home, “I didn’t want to come, but mommy said I had to,” or at dinner, “This food tastes funny”?

By honesty, I don’t mean bad manners. Most of our lives we spend constructing a mask behind which we hide, not allowing anyone to see behind that mask. One of the reasons you’ll have only one or two real friends (not acquaintances) in a whole lifetime is that you allow only a few people to look behind that mask. When someone takes off a mask, it is so rare as to be startling.

When someone takes off a mask, it is so rare as to be startling.

A child is a child. He is what he appears to be, she is what she appears to be, and that is all. Nothing more and nothing less. I am a sinner. You are too. When we start getting honest about that, when we start getting honest with one another and stop pretending that we’re something we’re not, then we will have become as children.

Powerless

When Jesus looked at a child, he saw a quality of powerlessness. The principle is this: You will never be as close to God as at that point when you have no place else to go.

You’ve heard the story of the heroine in the old western whose carriage got away from her. Out of the hills, the hero came riding in on his white horse and rescued her. Her comment was, “I trusted God until the reins broke.” No, she didn’t. The heroine trusted the reins and when the reins broke, she didn’t have anything else to trust. The Christian knows that the reins of money, prestige and connections have already broken. God is the only security, the only hope and the only source of power. If your powerlessness is a reality right now, it’s okay. That is God’s way to bring you to the end of yourself…and you’ll have become like a child.

Teachable

When Jesus looked at a child, he saw a quality of being teachable. A child knows he doesn’t know and is therefore teachable. God is not looking for creative leaders. God is looking for students who are willing to be quiet and to learn.

I had an inadequate seminary education. By that I mean I studied theology, dogmatics and pastoral counseling, but I didn’t know much about the Bible. In the first church I served, I learned to fake it pretty well…until one man in the church came up to me on a Sunday after everybody else had left. He said to me, “Pastor, you don’t know much about the Bible, do you?” For the first time in that church, I was honest. “No, I really don’t.” The man said, “Then why don’t you begin there.” What a good point.

A child always begins with ignorance. That is why children learn so fast…and quite simply, why we don’t. The prayer of every Christian ought to be: “Father, I come as clay to be molded; as a seed to be grown; and as a student to be taught. Help me to remember my position as clay, as a seed and as a student. Make me teachable.”

Being teachable is one of the most attractive traits that children possess. When we allow ourselves to be taught by circumstances, by our brothers and sisters in Christ, and by God’s Word, we have become like children.

Spontaneous

When Jesus looked at a child, he saw a quality of spontaneity. Someone has said, “Don’t look before you leap. If you do, you’ll decide to sit down.” Talleyrand, in jest, said, “Distrust your first impulses. They are nearly always right.” What was he saying? “Don’t make any waves. You might offend someone. Be very, very cautious because you might get hurt. Seek safety.” That’s the motto of adulthood. A child would never say that.

A child can say, “I love you” without blushing. A child can go to sleep without reviewing the blunders of the day. A child can accept a gift without wondering if there is an angle. A child can skip down the street without checking to see if anyone is looking.

Someone told me once, “Steve, you are one of the most uptight people I know.” He was right. I can’t even pray without wondering what the Father is thinking about my words. The Father has said to me time and time again, “I love you. You’re free. You’re accepted. Be glad!” When I really believe that, I will have become a child.

Jesus looked at his disciples with their knowing sophistication, their adult ways and their measured words. He then looked down at the children with their dirty faces, their clumsy walk and their toys in hand, and he said, “Let them come.”