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.” (Matthew 18:2-3, ESV)
Have you ever noticed how easily children make friends? Take one playground, assorted children, and about five minutes. Soon everyone is playing together — jumping, running, climbing, and having a great time. I witnessed this when peasant weather lured me and a young friend to a nearby park. In just a couple of minutes she was totally involved in play as the other kids made room for her in their games.
I sat on a nearby park bench, relaxing and observing all the activity around me. The playground seemed to be a microcosm of the community with a mix of ages, economic levels, and ethnic groups. None of this mattered to the children as they happily played together. They were caught up in the moment unconcerned with who was who. Even the adults found it easy to smile and pass the time of day as they watched their children play.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, it was apparent that He loved children. He was never so busy that He could not take time to draw them close. (Don’t you wonder what they said to each other?) At times He used them as an illustration of how we should live. When His disciples tried to keep these little ones from disturbing the Lord, He was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14, ESV). Another time Jesus told those around him, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”” (Matthew 18:3, ESV).
Become like a little child? Why would the Lord say that? Perhaps it is because young children are trusting and accepting. As long as you don’t push, bite, or kick, you can be their friend. Even then, they are quick to forgive and forget. Disputes and anger seldom last, unlike some of us who harbor hurts and grudges for a long time. Children are open and honest, often to a parent’s dismay as they innocently share family secrets. There is an innocence and purity that shines through their actions.
We often joke about an older person entering his second childhood. Is that such a bad thing? If we become as a little child—in thoughts, attitudes, and actions—the kingdom of heaven awaits us.
As I sat there on the bench watching the kids play, my thoughts drifted to how the church is much like a playground. It’s open to everyone, regardless of intelligence, skin tone, financial status, or ethnic origin. There must always be room in this body of believers to widen our circle and welcome another friend with love and acceptance.
I confess—there are no perfect churches. If there were, there would be no room for imperfect people, including you and me. Despite our failures, God mercifully allows us to try again. Like the playground, there’s room for us in His circle.