By Pastor Jason Poling
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Mark 10:14
Have you ever spent much time in a church nursery? If you haven’t, you are missing out. Working with children could revolutionize your marriage. It could change the way you parent. It could change your relationships, help you handle conflict, and radically alter the way you experience church. It seems like I’m exaggerating the benefits of serving in Children’s Ministry…but I’m not. And I’m not just trying to get more volunteers (although we do need you!) Instead, I want you to discover a goldmine of spiritual formation that Jesus holds out to all of us.
“The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
One of the biggest detriments to being an adult is thinking you are an adult. Adulthood implies arrival, maturity. Being a child connotes being immature, incomplete, being “on the way.” The trouble for many of us comes
when we assume physical adulthood necessarily includes spiritual maturity. Many things break down when we think we have spiritually arrived. Even the mere belief that such arrival is possible in this life causes trouble for us.
“Although the Bible does talk about our need to continue maturing, it also says we will not arrive at complete maturity until the Day Jesus returns: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
This means that we are never really spiritual adults in this life. We are all still “little children” in the sight of God. We are people in progress…people in various stages of incompleteness and immaturity.
We are a people constantly “on the way.”
How does this awareness of our child-likeness affect everything in life?
Most importantly, it affects our salvation. If we think we have arrived, we won’t need Jesus to lead us by the hand into the Promised Land.
It also affects our relationships. If we think we are mature and assume that all Christian adults should be similarly mature, we will always be more shocked by the sins of others and less by our own. Even worse, we will be unwilling to forgive.
This is where watching children is helpful. They don’t always know why they do what they do. They have sin inside of them that reacts in knee-jerk fashion. But their faith, even if immature, is simple. They get in a fight with another child, but usually repentance and forgiveness is quickly exchanged. And amazingly, the kids who were at each other in one moment are now playing happily together again in the next.
The simple wonder of this cyclical life of child-like, Christian experience gives us a glimpse into what it means to be a saint: someone who doesn’t ponder their level of arrival, especially in comparison with others, but embraces the reality of their sin and the ever-present grip of God’s grace to instantly and completely wipe that sin from the record of our relationships.
Perhaps we think too highly of not just ourselves, but of all adults? What if we saw everyone…especially ourselves…as immature children in the process of maturity? Might we be able to forgive more willingly and even laugh more freely at the ways in which we all act with such juvenility? Might unity happen more quickly and lastingly if we realized we are not really adults at all, but kids, all trying to learn how to properly play in God’s House?
Maybe you’ve been reading this blog the past year to learn how to disciple your children into Christian maturity. Perhaps God wants you to take a moment to consider how your children might disciple you? What if He wants to use them to lead you into the realization that no child of God is mature, except one: the firstborn Son. The one who arrived. The one who was perfect. The one who died and rose again to give us that perfection, even though we are functionally imperfect and immature. What if God wants us to see that because of this gift of grace-borne perfection, all of us children are allowed to come into His House and make our messes under one condition: we must remember that none of us have arrived at adulthood.