12 Sep Be Child-Like, Yet Not Childish
We all have a childlike and a childish side, even in our interaction with God. Christians are often called to have a childlike faith, yet this does not mean we should be holding onto childish attitudes. If we are not careful, we may imitate the wrong aspects of children instead of what is pleasing to God.
In the Bible, we see that Jesus loves children, He also urged believers to be childlike. In <Lk 18>, we read that: 15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Jesus also said in <Mt 18:3-4>, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
However, the Bible also tells us not to remain childish, but to be mature like an adult. As what Paul said, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” <1 Co 13:11>
Why did Jesus tell us to become like little children?
The Bible says that little children have a “lowly position”, meaning a humble position.
How is that so? Think about it, a little child is completely helpless and defenceless. He is unable to take care of himself nor provide for himself. Therefore, he has to totally rely on his parents. In fact, there is nothing shameful for a child to be like that, for that is just how a little child is, needy of parental care. That is what God would like us to become, to humbly admit that we are powerless like a child and we need God. Yet, some people simply cannot admit that. They think that it is weak and shameful to acknowledge that they cannot take care of themselves and they need a God. Such people are proud and they fail to recognize that they are what humans are – limited and vulnerable. As much as we hope we can, the truth is, we humans do not control everything, we do not know everything, we cannot do everything, and we cannot save ourselves. That is why Jesus said we need “to change and become like little children”. We need to turn from our proud posture to take up a “lowly”, humble position. For we have nothing to boast of, but we are created to rely on God, our Creator and Savior.
A child is more innocent than an adult, thus he can trust God more easily and with lesser doubts.
Even in a difficult and unpredictable situation such as the current pandemic, a childlike faith can still trust that God remains in control and is making all things work for the good of His people. Even if the outward situations appear contrary to the word of God, a childlike faith will still believe that God can and will deliver His promises in the end. Therefore, childlike faith can drown unnecessary anxieties and bring about a peace that transcends all understanding.
A little child cannot make his own decisions but have to obey his parents.
Just as a little child is not autonomous but have to listen to his parents, we believers also have a Father in heaven, whom we should obey. For we are not masters of our own lives. When we obey Father God, He will be responsible to take care of us and protect us to the end.
If a believer is truly blessed, then no matter how much he has grown, he will still retain the humility, God-dependent heart, innocent faith and simple obedience that a little child has.
But how does childish believers look like?
They want instant gratification.
Usually, kids cannot wait. When they want something, they want it immediately, otherwise they will cry and kick up a big fuss. Likewise, childish believers also cannot wait for God’s timetable and perfect will to be done, but they always want to go according to their preferred timing and desires. Such believers will always ask God to take away their troubles immediately, but they cannot learn precious lessons through the process of waiting and going through trials.
Only receive, but do not know how to give.
In the same way, a believer who cannot grow up is also someone who only knows how to take and demands that others meet his needs, but does not know how to give and sacrifice for others. In other words, a childish believer is also a selfish person, who lives for himself. He only wants to be served, but would not offer his service, to God or to men.
They are easily deceived.
<Ep 4:14> urges us “not to be infants anymore, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Here it says that childish believers are easily deceived and led astray. Especially things that sit well with their desires or can help them achieve their personal gains, they will welcome those teachings or methods readily without verifying with God’s truth. Because they care more about meeting their needs, their hearts and minds become clouded and they lack discernment. As a result, they suffer unnecessarily.
Do not and are unwilling to grow in their understanding.
However, Paul urged us saying, “Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” <1 Co 14:20> Meaning to say, we should remain unskilled and a non-expert in evil but we should keep growing in our thinking, especially in our understanding of God. In order to “think like mature adults”, we need to pack ourselves with the word of God, for God’s word is the highest wisdom, which can help us outgrow “the ways of childhood” <1 Co 13:11>, and mature in our spirit, discernment and living. <Heb 5:13-14> says, “An infant is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
While it seems like being mature and being childlike sounds contradictory, the two can in fact come together. The more mature we are in our understanding of God and in our spirit, the more we will rely on God with a childlike faith. And having a childlike faith does not mean we should remain childish spiritually. We need to be mindful not to use “childlike faith” as an excuse not to grow spiritually. Some believers may say, “Spiritual mysteries and God’s word are too profound, I do not want to complicate my mind but just want to keep it simple.” Or some believers do not really want to grow to be more Christ-like, so they keep saying they are happy remaining as spiritual kids. Yet, childish faith is brittle, it makes believers easily shaken and lose their peace, it prevents believers from seeing God’s presence and love when there is no instant answers. On the other hand, childlike faith is powerful; even in an unsettled situation, childlike faith turns our eyes to the Almighty God, it helps us trust Him no matter what, and finds rest in any storm. Especially during this season of a lingering pandemic with an uncertain future, may the Lord help us put away childish faith but restore a childlike faith in Him.