When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child,; when I became a man I put away childish things” I Cor. 13:11 I have heard this verse used as a club against children. All things child are supposed to be controlled or even stomped out in the quest for perfect adulthood. So much so that many people forget what it is like to be a child or childlike. They forgot their fascination with the world around them and decided the only thing that matters is to be a responsible adult. Even if you don’t put any stock in the bible, the idea that something is wrong with children is ingrained in our culture from the days of the puritans. But Jesus called a little child to him and told his followers they must become like children or they would never enter the kingdom of heaven.What does that mean and how does it mesh with the verse in Corinthians? Childish things are self-serving, but being like a child is to be full of wonder, openness, newness, adventure, teachableness, and an ability to have faith.The biblical penalty for destroying these things in a child is harsh. “if anyone causes one of these little ones, those who believe in me, to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be thrown into the depths of the sea.” Matt. 18:6
Many of the children that our church serves have had parts of their childhood ripped away from them. They see and experience things that children should not even be aware of. They live in a harsh reality that comfortable people do not know and they are blamed for the reality they live in. In actuality, they did not get a choice and they have to grow older before their time to survive. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that they are crooked trees. The trees that grow through the canopy of the taller trees of indifference, selfishness, poverty, and anger cannot grow straight.
What would Jesus say to these children? Would he demand them to change and to meet his standards or would he get down on his knees and wrap his arms around them and love them until their insecurities and pain was swallowed up in his compassion?
I think he would have us look at them and see ourselves. Because what is sin anyway? What is stumbling? I think it is simple. It is that which serves self, which magnifies our self and our ways over anyone, which shakes it fist at a benevolent God and says, ‘I know better.’ and in doing that we are causing the little one that is ourself to stumble and we are causing the ones around us, who get trampled under our glorification of self to stumble. It is that self seeking, self serving, self preserving, self satisfying ugliness that exists in all of us. And when we exist in that state we are destroying that wonderful child that is us and we are destroying ourselves. It is not God that would drown us, it is us. There is an old POGO cartoon that was famous for the saying “We have met the enemy and he is us”
So again, what would Jesus say to us? He would say and he does say, “let them come”, let them sit on my lap and let my love change them. We should be children again