Monday, June 13, 2011
The Jesus Kid
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" - Jesus in Matthew.
I wish I was that kid. How sweet would that have been? To be used as an illustration by the great teacher himself. To be honored by Jesus! This dude could heal people. How cool is that? If it had been me I know I wouldn't have remembered much of what he said, but I'm sure I could have felt that it was good, real good, to be honored by such a cool and fun guy.
Which leads me to wonder what kids thought of Jesus. My guess is that they were clawing all over their parents to get to play with Jesus. I mean, Jesus wasn't attractive looking, we know that, but what he did have, the ability to relate to the lowly, he had in Ancient Near Eastern cart-loads.
I've always seen this with kids and adults. The adult that gets down and looks the kid in the eye, the adult that reaches out and tickles, the adult that picks the kid up within 2 minutes of chatting - that adult is an instant hero.
I have a cousin who's like that. In fact most of my cousins are like that, and I really can't think of much I like better than watching my cousins playing with my kids. Of course then there's my Grand-Father, who at age 90, still knows all the tricks in the book when it comes to playing with kids.
One of the chief tricks is getting low. If you want to become an instant jungle gym, I suggest you lay down. Kids love that! But I should also mention you should expect to get up with a few bruises.
Kids, when they're at their best, can be really humble. Not most of the time mind you, but way more than we adults. Jesus is perhaps using the child-illustration since they weren't honored in the Ancient Near Eastern context.
But I believe Jesus uses it as there is also something inherently humble about being a kid. As a kid, sure you are selfish, but you are also immensely curious about the world around you. You don't go around trying to control everything. Mostly because everything is controled for you. You enter situations with imagination ablaze with stories, heroes, villians, toys, forts, castles, horses, space-ships and for my boy David the all powerful "Blue Star Wars Lego Man." (I often kiss him goodnight and whisper "I love you my Big Blue Star Wars Lego Man." I think he likes it.)
As a kid, your imagination is ablaze with possibilities. The world is a huge adventure! It has yet to be beaten down to the size of petty worries, anxieties and fears that plague adults.
Surely Jesus knew this about children, when he chose a kid for his illustration of kingdom living. Kingdom living is about humility. It's not brow beating stuff, humility. Humility, as Tim Keller says, is thinking less of self. And there's nothing more freeing than thinking less about yourself.
Not that kids don't think about themselves. My kids are obsessed with getting their way practically all the time. But the limits that are placed on them, enables them to have space to imagine, space to dream, space to just be, to be humble, small, and well taken care of.
That, in a word, is kingdom living. Knowing that we are taken care of. Knowing that we are free to play and imagine. Knowing that we can be like kids again. Knowing that we are small and loved. Knowing the joy of being bounced on a knee, looked in the eye and simply held. Knowing God.
The joy of a well-loved child should be the joy of we Christians. For children are what we are. So here's to never growing up. Here's to embracing life as an adventure: a great battle between real good and real evil, but a battle where we are watched over and well taken care of. Something akin to the Narnia Chronicles. Something akin to a kingdom, not a busy city full of worries.
So here's to kids every-where, teaching us how to really live.