We have a great program at the congregation where I attend worship that caters to our youth and allows them to learn of God’s loving kindness through age-appropriate lessons. The program is called Sonshine Parkway, and the children of the church absolutely love it. Their classrooms are decorated with different themes to resemble things like a café, a library, and even a movie theater. Needless to say, the children are excited to learn about God, and their parents know that their young ones are receiving fun, godly instruction while attending worship.
Recently, my 10-year-old daughter Emma was asked to be a tour guide for this program, leading kids to their designated classrooms and assisting with the instruction and activities for the day. She was thrilled to be asked to fill such a responsible role and has taken the time to do her very best in honor of God. What excites me as a parent and makes me more than a little proud, is her zeal for the opportunity to serve. While it’s sometimes difficult to get adults to want to participate in church activities and service because of how busy everyone is, here’s a young person willing to step up and to do so with a positive attitude and a heart of love.
I think this is how Jesus felt when the little children were brought to him for prayer and the laying on of hands. As soon as the parents brought their children before Jesus, they were rebuked by the disciples. Now, why on earth would the disciples have a problem with some harmless children coming before their Rabbi? Maybe it was just crowd control or maybe they had somewhere else to travel. Most likely, they believed that Jesus shouldn’t be bothered by such trivial things like dealing with children. Whatever the reason, Jesus’ response was quite interesting.
“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
We gain a little insight here as to the kind of heart Jesus is looking for to inherit his kingdom. What I hear him saying is, “Regain your innocence. Rejoice in me. Quit worrying about all the trivial arguments in life and just come and be in my presence.” You see, somewhere between giving our life to Christ and dealing with our own problems in life, we forget what it was like to first hear about God. We get sucked back into the “I must think this, and I must do that” mentality. We lose our wonder for the beauty of God and our zeal to serve him with all of our heart. There’s a reason why Jesus says,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.”
He wants us to become like little children in the presence of their Father. God wants us to approach him with a trusting, excited, curious, joyful, and carefree heart.
All of this has taught me a lesson as a father as well. It’s not enough just to raise your child in the church. It’s not enough to attend worship several times a week and then go back to doing your own thing. If I want my daughter to remain zealous for God, to love Him with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength, I must model that behavior myself. I must remember to become like those little children who are mentioned in the Bible and daily desire to sit at the feet of my Father and learn all that he has to teach me.
Have the heart of a child when thinking of and approaching God, because without that attitude and innocence, we’ll never enter the kingdom of God.