becoming childlike

I have to speak at church this week. We are in the middle of a series about the Kingdom of God and I drew the topic: You must become like a little child. When I’ve heard sermons on these texts, they usually talked about how we should imitate certain things about children…you know stuff like the wonder of a child, the carefree nature, even their ability to bounce back from a fall or difficult situations…anyway.

I’m learning how that is not at all what Jesus was talking about in the texts that deal with his using children as examples of the kingdom – in fact they are pretty hard on the folks who interpret the verses about the Kingdom of God and children that way. Pretty much every NT scholar I read on these verses agrees that Jesus was using the child as an example of humility – the powerless. At the most, he could have been saying that they do not chase after power.

I’ve been reading this old book by Donald Kraybill, who is a sociologist and expert on the Anabaptists. The Upside-Down Kingdom is the name of the book and it is a really good read. It’s got me thinking about how power structures are set up in our society – the ways in which we view other people, how power hungry our world is. I’m just convinced that the Kingdom of God is supposed to run counter to that. I’m not really sure what that means, but it’s really got me thinking right now.

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  • The other misapplication that I’ve heard of the childlike faith teaching is the one that says that it is acceptable for us to have a limited understanding of the content of the Christian faith, much as a child has a limited understanding of the world around him. I’ve always considered the “childlike faith” teaching to suggest that we are to have a trust of God similar to that trust that a young child has in his parents. Just as a young child is “powerless” in comparison to his parents, we as “childlike” Christians should live in complete humility before the face of God. I think that you’ve got the right idea on what Jesus meant by the “childlike faith” teaching.

    I haven’t read any of Kraybill’s books, but I am very familiar with the beliefs of the Anabaptists, as my mother and her family are German Mennonites from Paraguay. Earthly power and control are definitely not sought after things in my family’s Anabaptist community. I’ve found that many people who seek out and obtain power over people or organizations often tend to become corrupted by it, once a perceived threat to their power base emerges. So I try not to become hungry for power or control over others, but instead to go through life with a sense of humility before God, and to live simply. I don’t believe that Henry David Thoreau was a Christian, in the modern sense of the word, but his writings on living simply, and deliberately, have always made sense to me.

  • Kraybill is great so far. Most of his writings are about Anabaptist culture, history and some about pacifism.

    “I dabbled in pacifism once, not in Nam of course.”
    -big lebowski

  • “Being a slacker is still indeed a viable, and maybe even somewhat honorable lifestyle. Let’s go bowling.”

    If only life were so simple!

  • OG

    Hey fellas, I was inspired by Tim’s new blog, I created my own AND stole his template. Thanks Tim! Check it our when you have a chance…

    http://www.theroyalscam.blogspot.com

  • OG

    I love the Lebowski quotes! Tim, your point is well taken. The issue of power and leadership in the Christian context is something I have been thinking about lately as well. As Christians we are supposed to strive for humility, but what does Christian leadership look like in a world that rewards dishonesty and deception? Where do we draw the line between humility and naivety? I am as disqusted as anyone when I see the power mongers that run things, and Anthony is right – power corrupts. But does this mean as Christians we are not supposed to strive for worldy positions of leadership? I’d love to hear some thoughts.

  • I don’t believe that all Christians should have the same response. There are some Christians who have a great deal of power, but they use it in ways that build the Kingdom of God – but I think the opposite is the norm. I think a problem comes into play when people use the power structures of the Kingdom of this World, and then act as if they are building the KOG.

    I think that we see power in one way and God sees it in a totally different way. We’ve got to embrace the idea that the person at the top of the heap in this world is not necessarily at the top in the KOG. In the KOG, the lowly person is of primary interest. There is no getting around that as an emphatic discourse in the NT and something that we are all need to learn to recognize.

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  • I don’t believe that all Christians should have the same response. There are some Christians who have a great deal of power and they use it in ways that build the Kingdom of God – but I think the opposite is the norm. I think a problem comes into play when people use the power structures of the Kingdom of this World, and then act as if they are building the KOG.

    I think that we see power in one way and God sees it in a totally different way. We’ve got to embrace the idea that the person at the top of the heap in this world is not necessarily at the top in the KOG. In the KOG, the lowly person is of primary interest. There is no getting around that as an emphatic discourse in the NT and something that we all need to learn to recognize.