2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-5 English Standard Version (ESV)
Can you imagine what it would feel like if you became the subject of one of Jesus’ object lessons? You’re off playing to the side with your friends and Jesus motions you over to be the focus of attention of what seems to be a pretty serious conversation between a formidable group of men. This is the picture created in the verses above. The child walks over (seemingly without hesitation) as Jesus proceeds to elevate him/her as the ultimate goal and end game for the disciples; the ones Jesus hand-picked to spread his legacy to the world. The child most likely has little to no idea of what he’s addressing but has made themselves completely available to the Master. And all of a sudden the scene becomes the lesson.
Availability. Have we made ourselves available to the Master? When he says, “…unless you turn and become like children…”, can we respond and say we’ve made the “turn”? Turning from something implies we were headed another direction and made a course correction. It’s no doubt Jesus understands our starting point – our frame of reference. The counter to availability is preoccupation. If we’re preoccupied, availability becomes more difficult. The child was willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice and become the object lesson for Jesus in (what could have been) a very intimidating situation. Do we have that kind of relationship with and confidence in the Savior? Has he so captured our hearts that we’re willing to drop activities of lesser importance with little to no hesitation in order to be pliable, moldable and usable for the Kingdom’s work?
Every good preacher knows their audience and Jesus was the best. I have to wonder if the disciples had begun to get the “big head” due to their perceived positions as Christ’s “elect”. I wonder because later in the chapter, he describes the following consequence if anyone is to “look down” on one of those exemplifying the lesson.
…it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6 English Standard Version (ESV)
Misery loves company but Jesus is saying you’d be better off lonely than drag one of the “all-stars” of the Kingdom down with you. God knew his fallen creation needed wake-up calls. And not only wake-up calls but the resulting alarms after we hit snooze repeated times. He asks us to “renew our minds” and to “meditate” on his word – both of which require discipline. And discipline requires repetition. We so easily forget we’re to live counter culturally and old habits die hard. Additionally, it’s much harder to keep swimming upstream if we forget the reason we turned around in the first place.
Do we desire to advance in Christ’s Kingdom for the cause of Christ? The answer lies in how available we are to his call. Is there so little margin in our lives or have we assigned so much worth to our activities that we can’t respond to his voice? Or worse, are we attempting to tear down those who are succeeding? God, help us to become more available to your call and build up those who do.