“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” – Paul to the Ephesians 4:14-15
“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” – Jesus in Mark 10:14-15
Turning one year old on May 10, Abel can all but take his first steps. He crawls like the wind, walks along furniture, and takes big pigeon-toed steps assisted by a hand to hang onto. Now that he can move out, Abel doesn’t stay in place for long. There’s too much to explore. He’s also learned how to get our immediate attention. Want some mom time? Make a go for her chewable houseplants. Looking for dad to scoop you up? Take off for the lowest shelf of books. Come to think of it, a diet of plants and books describes his parents pretty well.
We want Abel to mature into walking, even if a house full of boys means ambulating can lead to ambulances. We don’t wish for him to toddle forever, bouncing off corners and tripping over hazards. He should learn to scurry like his brothers or saunter like his dad.
But please, Abel, try to grow up without becoming a grown-up! Growing up is active, alive and everdeveloping. Grown-up is past tense, settled and complete.
Growing up without becoming grown-up is a way I reconcile the scriptures at the top. It would seem Paul only tolerates grown-ups while Jesus has no time for anyone but little kids. Let’s look a little closer. Yes, Paul wisely calls us to mature beyond a toddler’s dangerous and easily-deterred approach to discipleship. But notice the growing up into Christ never ends. Speaking the truth in love, we continue to grow up into Christ in every way that remains. For Paul, maturity provides freedom to truthfully pursue growth in the context of love.
When Jesus teaches we receive the kingdom of God only as little children he does not frown on maturity. This blessed welcome of children comes right in the middle of some of Jesus’ most challenging teachings on marriage, divorce, and material possessions. Nevertheless, Jesus’ Kingdom is only received as a gift. We stretch out our hands with all the utter dependence of a small child. The kingdom of God belongs to children, and children in the kingdom never cease to grow.
What is Jesus teaching you these days? Where are your horizons of growth? How does God’s truth speak lovingly to you who believe yourselves to be all grown up?
Shalom, Pastor Tom