“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)
Children delighted Jesus. He was always calling them into the inner circle in a culture that intentionally left them out in the cold. His friend Peter must have remembered all the times Jesus made children the center of his attention as he illustrated some important truth. Later, as Peter penned his letters, he would mimic the Master’s example as he instructed his readers to be “obedient children” and follow the Lord Jesus.
If you hang around children for brief spells or for the long haul, their traits of obedience are definitely noticeable: a heart that longs to please, a desire to listen carefully and follow through, actions that reflect what is being asked, a knack for finding satisfaction in doing what is expected. Unfortunately, the opposite characteristics are even more readily apparent.
There’s something outstanding about children who easily obey, who do not require an ultimatum to follow directions. Time-outs for two-year-olds in the middle of temper tantrums may be routine, but children of the Heavenly Father are called to a different sort of behavior. One of the fundamental ways Peter encourages us to demonstrate obedience is to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (I Peter 1:22). This kind of love that meets others at their point of need is a direct reflection of God’s sacrificial love. It is an earnest love, a love that strives with all its might with the enthusiasm of an Olympic athlete sprinting toward the finish line.
We delight our Heavenly Father when we demonstrate this level of love for our brothers and sisters. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).
Our children teach me about this love. Our daughter recently moved into her first home and her brothers, sisters, and cousins made room in their busy schedules to lend a hand, paint a room, cart in a couch. I watched them pitching in and working hard to help their sister, and my mother’s heart was entirely encouraged. Our children gave me the greatest gift of love when they cared for their sister.
On a much grander scale, God asks us to obey him by loving his children. The apostle John also learned the importance of children from Jesus. His charge is high recommendation too. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (I John3: 16 & 18).
Elizabeth A. Mitchell
Photo Credit: Paul Westel