Let the little children come to me

Published 4:57 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2018

by Charles Qualls

In our lives, we all navigate the fascinating line between childlike-ness and the realities of becoming adults. Every one of us needs to grow up. Call that responsibility. Call it maturity. We do not get the option of staying in our childhoods. 

Some are born old souls, it seems. The years squeeze the life out of others until they just become old souls. Life can do that.

Life can take a once happy, flexible person who laughed freely, dreamed willingly, and was open to believing new things. Then make them into bitter, cynical creatures who distrust first and change quite reluctantly. 

There are people who I will, on occasion, observe for a while and walk away asking myself, “Was he ever a child?” Or I’ll wonder, “What do you think he does for fun? Does he even do ‘fun?”  “Has she forgotten her childhood completely?” You’ve known people who made you wonder these things. 

Every year while I was in Greensboro, North Carolina, we started four new Divorce Recovery groups  a year. Regularly, when a first night arrived we would have 50 brand new divorcees sitting in the gathering. Hurting people who wanted help.

One quarter, a man walked in on that first night.  He was about 50 years old and my gut told me, “Watch out here. This guy looks like he could cloud up and rain all over someone.” Eventually, the week arrived for me to deliver my usual material on the topic, “The Bible Speaks About Divorce and Remarriage.” 

Soon as we went on break, he came to me. “You mean to tell me that God’s not mad at me?!” he said emphatically. I paused and gathered my thoughts. “Do you need for God to be mad at you?  You seem to,” I replied. 

He said, “I think I’m going to hell for this. The Bible says that divorce is a sin.” We began right there to have this beautiful conversation for a few minutes. At one point, I said, “I think you are madder at yourself than God is. And, you just want God to hammer you so that you will somehow feel better. I think you’re so caught up in the legalities of what you hear in a sentence or two from the Bible, because you feel a need to be punished. Grace just doesn’t sound appealing to you, does it?” 

He said, “I’ve been so unloveable, I don’t see how God could possibly love me.” Here was this broken man, trying to understand the things of God without a trace of wonder, hope, possibility or imagination left in him. 

I don’t know what life does to some of us to get us to where we just don’t seem to have any child left in us at all. Then, there are those who live on the other extreme. No one needs to be a childish adult, but some are. That’s not an admirable trait. 

But, maintaining a touch of childlikeness into adulthood? That’s not only admirable, it’s a feat to be celebrated!

Child-likeness helps the world to be a better place, a more hopeful place. An enjoyable place.

Jesus, in Mark 10: 2-16, said it would be the only way we would enter into the kingdom of God.

If you are operating on the surface of this, and only thinking still about marriage and divorce, then Jesus’ teaching seems tough. But if we listen on, Jesus didn’t care so much about the topic as he did about more lofty matters. The ethics of God’s Kingdom. 

Children have so many marvelous qualities. But, the very best of them might be their innocence. They take life at face value until we teach them to be spoiled and overly expectant. They have an openness for others until we teach them to be exclusive. They take life on with mercy until we teach them to be vengeful and legal-minded. They come at life through the front-door until we teach them to be sneaky and underhanded. 

Jesus made things equal in his answer.  Jesus saw humans, where we see genders.  Jimmy Buffett recorded a song about this. He says, “I’m growing older but not up, my metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck. So let the winds of change blow over my head, I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

Jesus Christ said, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Somehow, if you turn your head just right and squint your eye a little bit — it starts to look like those two are talking about the same thing.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.