“And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken the child in his arms, he said, “Whoever receives a child like this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not only me, but also the Father who sent me.” [Mark 9:33-37]
Such a simple, yet profound illustration here by Jesus. I fear it is often overlooked for its simplicity, sadly. So, I’d like to take a moment to examine it a bit closer.
This object lesson comes immediately after Jesus realizes that the disciples had been arguing with one another about which of them was the greatest. Not their finest moment. But, in response, Jesus takes a small child and holds her in his arms and after telling them that the greatest in the Kingdom is the servant, or slave, of all, he then makes this astounding statement: To receive a child is to receive Christ, and to receive Christ is to also receive the Father.
The late, great theologian George MacDonald deduced from this the following:
“Then to receive a child in the name of Jesus is to receive Jesus; to receive Jesus is to receive God; therefore, to receive the child is to receive God.”
“What is the Kingdom of Christ? A rule of love, of truth – a rule of service. The King is the chief servant in it….If then, to enter this Kingdom, we must become children, the spirit of children must be its pervading spirit throughout, from lowly subject to lowliest King….’Whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.’”
“…To receive the child because God receives it…is one thing; to receive it because it is like God…is another.
“…But to advance now to the highest point of this teaching of our Lord: ‘He that receives me receives Him who sent me.” To receive a child in the name of God is to receive God himself…
“…God is represented in Jesus, for that God is like Jesus: Jesus is represented in the child, for that Jesus is like the child. Therefore, God is represented in the child, for that he is like the child. God is child-like.”
– [Unpoken Sermons, George MacDonald, pgs. 10-12]
Are we so scandalized by this notion that God is child-like? If so, why?
Is it because we still prefer a God who is too Holy to be near us? Do we have trouble imagining a God who is closer to us than our own heartbeat? Or as near to us as our own breath?
Jesus is “God with us” or “Emmanuel”. He promised never to leave us – ever. He is here now and so is the Father. Together, they both have come to make their home in us.
This means that Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit are living and breathing in me – and in you – right now.
God is not far away. God is not “out there” or “up there”. God is not high and exalted in the sense that God is not right here, right now; inhabiting this very moment.
This means that every moment is a Holy Moment. All ground is Holy Ground. All experiences are Spiritual experiences.
And, more than this, it means that God is humble and loving, and giving, and yes, even childlike.
Say it out loud: God is childlike.
As MacDonald sums it up:
“How terribly, then, have the theologians misrepresented God in the measures of the low and showy, not the lofty and simple humanities! Nearly all of them represent him as a great King on a grand throne, thinking how grand he is, and making it the business of his being and the end of the universe to keep up his glory, wielding the bolts of Jupiter [or Zeus] against them that take his name in vain….Brothers, have you found our King? There he is, kissing little children and saying they are like God…the simplest peasant who loves his children and his sheep were – no, not a truer, for the is false, but – a true type of our God beside that monstrosity of a monarch.”
To be like God, then, is to be like a child: Full of innocence, wonder, humility, playfulness, and generosity.
The essential essence of mankind is childhood. Every adult is just an overgrown child who has forgotten their childlikeness. Jesus wants us to remember who we were – who we really are. And when we do, we realize that God is also childlike and we are like God when we are like the inner child who remains hidden within us.
Now, this doesn’t mean that God is “childish” – those are two different things, aren’t they? God is not childish, and we are not encouraged to be childish – impatient, impudent, stubborn, willful, demanding, etc.
We ARE encouraged to become like little children in order to see the Kingdom, enter the Kingdom, and receive Christ – and therefore the Father also.
Try to imagine God as a childlike being who is kind, gentle, humble, loving, compassionate, generous and accepting. This is what it means to see God as God truly is. It’s also what it means to see a picture of we are also called to be as image-bearers of the Divine.
I am encouraged by this upside-down view of God as a childlike soul who holds the universe in his hands, and yet does so without any guile, or malice, or anger, or wrath.
This is the picture of God we see embodied in Christ. This is who God is, and this is who we are called to become.
This is how we descend into the greatness described by Jesus where the greatest is the servant, the most humble, of all.
Keith Giles is a former pastor who left the pulpit 11 years ago to start a church that gives away 100% of the offering to the poor in their community.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho.
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