Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Spiritual Life of Children

Every Sunday our church has a "blessing of the children." All the kids come to the front of the sanctuary, and one of the elders prays over them. Then they head off to Children's Worship. It is one of my favorite parts of worship. There is something about the spirit of a child that communicates God to me. It is as good as a sermon... maybe better.

Jesus says some wonderful things about children and spiritual life. On one occasion parents were bringing their children to Jesus for him to bless them. The disciples didn't like the idea. They began to rebuke them. Jesus rebukes the rebukers saying, "Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

On another occasion Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

I know the Christian doctrines of original sin and the fall of man. I know they are important for understanding salvation, even though I don't remember Jesus saying much about these ideas. In any case these concepts need to be balanced by Jesus' teaching about children's natural connection to the Kingdom of God.

The natural state of children gives us a glimpse into the Kingdom of God. These little ones have no need for conversion ... at least not yet. They are somehow still "of the kingdom of God" according to Christ. Don't ask me how. My seminary courses in Baptist theology never really explored the spiritual condition of children, except to talk about an undefined "age of accountability" at which point they were eligible for baptism.

Jesus seems to think these little ones are all right the way they are. In fact adults need to become like them to enter the kingdom of heaven. Maybe small children have not yet eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I know the smallest ones haven't yet followed the example of Adam by naming everything in sight.

They don't yet have both feet in this divided world of multiplicity. There is still a natural wholeness in the way they view the world, a directness and clarity in the way they see reality. They are close enough to their birth to remember the face of the Creator who knit them together in their mother's womb. They still see the Kingdom of Heaven through the veil of time and space.

It is not that children are sinless. Any parent of a two-year old knows the willful selfish streak that runs in every human child. But it seems like our sinfulness takes time to fully erase the memory of our original state.

In any case, I see heaven in the face of a child. I see myself the way I used to be - the way I still am under this heavy knowledge of good and evil. Through their eyes I see again the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank God for children; they are my spiritual teachers.

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