Receiving the Kingdom of God like a Child—What It Is and What It Isn’t.

A brief reflection on Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing their children to have Jesus bless them. The disciples rebuked the people for this… then Jesus rebuked the disciples for rebuking the people! Mark tells us that Jesus was indignant. Then Jesus took the moment to tell anyone who would listen that, “…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

The big distinction that needs to be made here is between childlike and childish. The Kingdom of God, the Bible tells us, is righteousness (being right with God), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Childlike faith grows out of implicit trust in God, which leads continually to peace and joy. Childish beliefs are the things we work to help our children grow out of if we want them to be good people.

Childlike

  • Trusting
  • Inquisitive
  • New to the world
  • Unfeigned
  • Humble
  • Playful
Childish

  • Self-centered
  • Immature
  • Foolish
  • Blaming
  • Demanding
  • Know-it-all
Of special note is the idea of inquisitiveness. Atheists of the more evangelical variety use this passage to denigrate faith by claiming that having faith means turning our minds off. “Unquestioning,” they would say. This is a complete misunderstanding.

We should indeed have the unquestioning presumption of God’s love for us just as small chlidren never question their parents’ love for them. But children are always asking question. They are information sponges, learning machines, junior scientists (who are mostly experimenting on their parents!). If children don’t inquisitively interact with the world around them, parents begin to worry.

So receiving the Kingdom like a child does not mean turning our minds off and asking no questions. Nor does it mean that we think God is going to rescue us from our own foolishness.

Receiving the kingdom like a little child means that we trust unquestioningly in God’s boundless love for us demontrated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Secure in that foundation, we let our minds and spirits come alive, engaging this wondrous and mysterious life, understanding that we have been given freedom to learn, try, fail, succeed and grow.