Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.
The simplicity of children is given as a standard for the requirements of a disciple of Christ. A child’s trust is built upon relationship, and out of the relationship comes learning, understanding, and application. The adult mind tends to come to God with a set of demands. A child has no demand except love, no expectation except relationship. This simple standard is incredibly difficult for adults to measure up to, or to measure down to, as it may seem to some.
A child allows himself to be loved – something much more difficult for an adult to do. There is no idea supposed by a child that he must earn his way. The most he would suppose is that there would be some reward for being good and some punishment for being bad, but a child does not think beyond the barrier of dependence. In fact, it is impossible for him to do so. All that he knows is that he must depend on someone else to provide and to guide, and, most importantly, to love him. Christ invited people to come to Him on no other terms but trust in His affections for them. What kind of Savior would He be to our souls if He had no time for children? He gathered them in His arms, embraced them in that touch that assures of sympathy, affection, and support, and allowed them to feel His love.
The greatest thinker among us must grasp the emotional connection in the concept of love. Love must be felt if it is to be experienced. Love is certainly more than just feeling, especially more than infatuation, but without an emotional component that assures and comforts it is impossible to experience love at all. Christ explained God in terms of a Father who loves and provides for His children, and not only for our physical needs but also for our needs of security and assurance. As in the home, where after the dinner is consumed and the chores are done, the fondest memories of the heart are built around smiles, laughter, affirmation, and parental pride in our achievements, so in the home God makes for Himself in our hearts the dearest things we experience are the affirmations of heaven’s love for us.
I fear in our emphasis on humility, which is, of course, based on the biblical revelation, we have neglected this grasping of the Father’s affirmation. Though we will, as the twenty-four elders of Revelation, cast our crowns before Him and say, “You are worthy,” still there will be those words that come from the Father’s heart, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It is this love that causes us to want to serve Him more, to hear echoed in our hearts again, “Well done,” from His Spirit. All of this comes from the meaning of relationship that builds our faith and trust in Him.
It was Anselm who insisted that faith must come before understanding, and, really, it can be no other way. God in His patience with us allows us to falter and stumble in our search. To compare and question the pureness of God’s knowledge with the polluted pools of earthly thought is a sin and offense of incalculable measure. We may wryly smile at the student who argues a point of physics with a PhD on the basis of what his grandmother, who had never finished elementary school, told him, but we do the same thing with God constantly. We take the thoughts of our fallen world and put them up against the knowledge of the Eternal One and argue our case, and He patiently endures it all, holds back the lightning bolts that might strike us, and the earthquakes that might swallow us, and loves us into His truth.
Imagine a boy who had never seen the ocean but had heard stories of it. He collected these stories in his head over the years of his childhood and formed some mental image of what the ocean might be, but many of these stories came from people who, like the boy, had never seen the ocean themselves, so his mind is filled with misinformation, as well as the twisted imaginings of his own heart taking all of these ideas and seeking to form them into something specific. Then one day he visits the ocean and sees the surf, the vast span of the water, the seagulls and the crabs scurrying along the shores, the ships out at sea, the sun glistening off the waves, the tides coming and going. Would we not think him silly to argue, “But this is not how I imagined it! Where is that ocean that I had thought of, that my acquaintances mentioned, that I had conjured up in my mind?”
But, someone might argue, your example is inadequate, for morality is different from fact! This is, unfortunately, the popular cry of today, that morality and religion hold to no absolute truth, neither in source nor in standard. Ethics merely are derived from the cultural values of our society, that have been established in practical response to the challenges of survival, but they hold no eternal point of reference. I shudder to think how many people believe such thoughts. No doubt some matters of manner and practicality are derived from the practical considerations of a certain human setting. Germans are obliged to shovel snow off the sidewalks in front of their homes, for example, and Nigerians are not, yet the overriding principles of consideration, kindness, fairness, and responsibility that each society must consider come from something deeper within us, something that the Bible explains in terms of our original creation, that we are made in the image of God. Sin has marred this image but it has not erased it entirely.
Anselm was right. I must come to God in faith and put myself in humility before Him to learn from Him. There will always be this process within us of “shaking loose” those old ideas that cling to us, some of them cling to the Christian community as well. Sometimes the right thing is condemned but in entirely the wrong spirit, and even in the wrong way. In all situations, the Christian’s overriding witness should be a testimony to God’s love. God’s patience with us is amazing. But we must begin this journey of knowledge with the basic understanding of what the journey will be like. We are moving from the God of our imaginations to the God that is, from the ethics of the fallen world to the ethics of the holy God, and from the preferences that we have chosen for ourselves along a thousand different lines to the will of the Creator of the universe.
This is the call He extends to us, and it is, by the way, the only offer on the books. If we will come to Him we must come as a child. This does not mean that we will one day grow into adulthood to that point where all mystery is dissolved in knowledge. We still on earth remain as children in many ways. So we need a Father all the days of our life, none more so than at the end. So we cannot come to a “god” of our own creation and expect that He will have died on the cross for our sins, or that He will be truly all wise and holy. But we can come to the God that is, the God proclaimed in the Bible, who sent Christ to die on the cross for the sins of the world.
Lord, You are wisdom and love from everlasting to everlasting. Forgive me when I have sought to use the polluted wells of knowledge in this earth as a rebuttal to Your eternal knowledge. Lead me to trust You and to grow in that trust. Guide me into all truth. Your word is truth. Amen.