As I reflect on the Kids and Family Worship Night this last Sunday night, I keep thinking about that moment when the band had finished practice and people were just connecting before the service started. The room was filled with the sound of children laughing, screaming, and playing. Usually it wouldn’t be so loud because they would be in their own classes or the mood in the room would be set to have a more “mature” atmosphere. We had fun, music playing and creative art stations set up and parents came bringing their whole family. IT WAS AWESOME!!!
It made me think about the classic story of Jesus surrounded by His disciples and a crowd and these parents who bring their children to be blessed by Him. I wonder what the mood in the crowd was like as the children acted like children. We all know what I mean. Children can be loud, energetic, expressive, passionate, still learning boundaries, obstinate, fussy, throwing fits, have poopy diapers, and snotty noses. The kinds of things that tend to make people upset when they are trying to do something serious, like listen to a famous rabbi who also happens to be the Son of God!
The account in Mark 10:13-16 is probably my favorite, but all of the accounts in the gospels have this in common: Jesus is in the middle of teaching when people start bringing their kids to Him to bless them. Now, they could have been there all along waiting patiently and this is the moment when the kid energy hit critical mass, along with the listeners’ patience (including the disciples). They could have also just showed up a little late, like parents with lots of young children tend to do. I can image the indignation of the disciples and the other people. “Who are these parents? Don’t they know this is the Messiah? This is not the time to have a play date!”
In reality, Jesus took this time to teach a powerful lesson of the Kingdom, of family, and our priorities. I want to look at 3 things from this.
- “The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” I believe this is referring to both children having the same access to the mysteries of the Kingdom and that in a few years they will be inheriting the Kingdom, so to speak. “There is no junior-sized Holy Spirit!” is a favorite saying of mine. It reminds us that children can have the same encounters and access to the power of the Holy Spirit that the rest of us do. At the same time, the children today will be the adults in 10-20 years and be leading and shaping the body of Christ, or they’ll be the ones leaving the church for something else. We have a responsibility to make children feel welcomed and part of what we are doing and experiencing in the presence of God.
- “Anyone, who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will by no means enter it.” You have access to the Kingdom of God through simple faith, trust, and belief. In our society, there is so much pressure to not be naïve and to be critical we often approach the Kingdom in the same way. I am not saying to be simple minded. We don’t have time to go into detail on the differences, however if there were an all access pass to the Kingdom it would be faith, trust, and belief. Jesus rebuked the disciples on their unbelief on numerous occasions. Seeing the works of God invites us to know His ways, knowing His ways brings us into knowing Him. Unbelief will keep us at the door wondering if the God that healed our friend is capable and willing to bring a financial miracle into our lives.
- “He took the children in his arms and blessed them.” This blessing is so significant because it is saying to everyone around that He doesn’t just tolerate the children but He welcomes, accepts, and blesses them, in all their childlike glory. He stopped everything He was doing to say to these children: “You are loved. You are valued. You are special.” In doing this, He also is saying the same to their parents.
I want us to take a moment and reflect on how we treat the children around us in our lives. Like the kids that sit next to you on the bus or train on your way to work. Perhaps you always get stuck next to kids at the movie theater. Maybe every time you go to your favorite coffee spot some crazy moms decide to have the play date of the century at the exact same time and place. What are we communicating to these children by our attitudes, words, and body expressions? What attitudes or frustrations are these experiences revealing about our own heart?
Let me leave you with this thought: In the same way as we make space for children and their process of maturity, we need to make space for young believers and their process of maturity. We need to make space for everyone’s process of maturity. We are all on different journeys in pursuit of God. As we grow together in community we can help each other and support each other in our journey of life. Church was never meant to be perfect and pretty, but full of life, love, process, different maturity levels, and grace enough to wipe out the history of sin. Thank you, Jesus!!!