We know from the Gospels that Jesus particularly loved children. Time and again, Jesus goes to extreme lengths to avoid pursuing disciples but seems to have all the time in the world for children. Why did Jesus love children so much, and what can us adults learn from them?
“Let the Children Come to Me”
Many of the most pivotal events in the life of Jesus are recorded in only one Gospel. Historians and theologians alike are thrilled when even two Gospels recount the same incident. One of the gentlest moments in the whole earthly ministry of Jesus is recorded in three Gospels.
Jesus is with His apostles, and crowds are coming. In this particular community, it’s a different sort of crowd: people are bringing their children to Jesus that He might bless them. The apostles, no doubt thinking that Jesus has more important things to do than play with kids, rebuke the crowds. Jesus responds:
“Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Mt 19:14; Mk 10:14; Lk 10:21
In St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus continues to explain,
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Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
So, how does a child receive the Kingdom of God? How can we do likewise?
Children are trusting
Throughout the gospels, Jesus explains some part of the plan for His ministry only to be met by second-guessing and cross-examination. This, sometimes from his enemies and sometimes from his own apostles.
How often do we do this when we encounter challenging scripture?
Think of the last time that you really wrestled with some aspect of your faith. Maybe it was the mystery of the trinity, or human nature and original sin. It is laid out in scripture in black and white, but you couldn’t swallow it. Consider explaining it to a child in exactly the terms that it was explained to you. You’ll probably be met with immediate acceptance.
One day, the child in my life was walking past a crucifix in church that she must have passed a hundred times before. But this time, something made her think twice about it and she asked me why someone did that to Jesus. I told her that Jesus volunteered to be punished for all of the things that we did wrong because He loves us that much. She understood.
That she immediately accepted a fact that countless grown adults can’t understand isn’t a credit to my ability to explain things. It’s a testament to a child’s ability to take things on faith. All of us should echo the prayer that Jesus offered:
“I thank thee, Father, lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes, yea, for such is thy gracious will,” (Mt. 11:25).
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Children are humble
Think again of the above scenario: she asked me a question because she didn’t know the answer and thought that I did. How many times have you not asked a question because even the act of asking a question admits that you don’t know something? To ask a question is an act of humility.
More than this, think about why a child would want to achieve the Kingdom of God in the first place. Their only motivation could be love.
What are our own motivations? Fear of Hell? The promise of rest after a weary life? How many times does Jesus describe the Kingdom of Heaven only to have his apostles ask about whether they will be seated in places of honor or power? The common response that Jesus gives to these enquiries is that the least shall be the greatest:
“Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Turn and Become Like Children
Jesus loves children. Why? Because children love in ways that most of us have lost. Children don’t ask for power, escape, even wisdom. Like all other lessons, this is easier to read than it is to learn – particularly for us adults.
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We are not paid for the work we do; the money is not our motivation and doesn’t drive us in our endeavours working with (and for) the poor from the edges of our society. But of course, without financial resources, we could not implement our goals and activities.