Can the “little child” in you come out and play? I’m smiling, but I’m not joking: This is a very serious question. Listen to what Jesus had to say about the necessity of childlike freedom on a day when the disciples evidently weren’t getting it. He plunked a small child down right in front of them and issued this warning:
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3
Did you see the size of that really big “and” in there? Unless we are converted “AND” become as little children… Wait a minute, do you mean there is something more to this saving work of Jesus than faith in Christ?
There’s Something More Required?
Yes! We evidently have to become like little children. And notice how stringent the warning is: If we don’t become like little children, we will “BY NO MEANS” enter the kingdom of heaven. Take a deep breath and release any fears that He is talking about getting into heaven after this life. That’s not the kingdom He is referring to here.
This is a Kingdom of God on earth reference for two reasons:
1) Matthew always writes “kingdom of heaven” even when the reference is clearly about what we would call the ‘kingdom of heaven on earth” or “the kingdom of God” as the other gospel writers called it.
2) Jesus Himself said that believing in Him is all that God requires to get us into heaven’s kingdom (John 3:16). Jesus can’t be contradicting Himself!
Still, we have to come to terms with what’s required to gain entry into the kingdom of heaven on earth. This is “gentle Jesus meek and mild” saying that you and I will “by no means” enter His Kingdom on earth unless we “become like little children.”
How Hard Is That?
First off, let me say that there are worse things He could have required of us (retaking calculus comes to mind…). Being a little child was FUN! We got to breeze through our days without a care in the world, ready to love, ready to laugh, and ever ready to explore something new.
Next, consider what His kingdom on earth is. Paul describes it as right living, peace, joy and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). These incredible blessings are meant to be our moment by moment experience of the new life Jesus died to give us. I want in! Don’t you?
It turns out that faith in Christ is both the key to conversion (being saved to live in heaven), and to becoming a little child (being “saved” to live a heavenly life on earth). If I can find the way to keep my faith in Christ active, then no matter what happens, I will be as trusting and loving, as teachable and lead-able, as humble and joyful, as a little child.
Trust Made It Possible
These great qualities of childhood only lasted as long as the trust lasted. Once we lost the trust, we became self-protective and self-seeking. We left childhood behind. The only way to recapture that kind of trust is to keep our faith in Jesus alive and well, come what may.
Our trust in Jesus, unlike the trust of childhood, need never come to an end. Because He will never cease being absolutely trust-worthy. Here is how Paul put it:
I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 AMP
Now you can see why I want to know: “Can the little child in you come out to play?”
Would you like to tumble a little deeper down the rabbit hole? See “How do I live now that I’m saved?” at our website.