Because life is a series of edits

Becoming More Like Them (part 2)

In Church, Education, Seminary on March 10, 2008 at 4:53 am

I resonate with Campagnola’s assessment, particularly when she writes:

“The contemporary church has often understood this verse (Matthew 18:3) to teach what great kingdom citizen character looks like – a child-like faith, humble and meek and ever ready to believe in Jesus. But Jesus took the disciples beyond the questions of character and greatness and challenged their theology of salvation and kingdom life. He made the child the reference point for:

• conversion – change and become like little children…to enter the kingdom
• community – become like little children in order to exemplify kingdom life
• calamity – unless you change…you will never enter the kingdom of heaven

He unfolds this in the subsequent verses with parallel language: change is evident when you humble yourself like this child; become is evident when you welcome a little child like this in my name; calamity awaits you if you cause one of these little ones to sin.” (72-73)

The way this challenges me is by revealing my lack of faith in thinking children are just little people we have to deal with because they’re young. How many times have I wondered what the early church did with their members’ children? How many ways have I imagined that, somehow, children must have been more godly then since their parents were who God was working through to begin the church? Answer: too many times to mention without embarrassment at my untamed idealism, to be sure.

Rather than lamenting that I have to deal with kids in church because (darn it) they’re young and not adults yet, how would my heart change if my default mentality was more along the lines that I get to minister to them because they’re young and not adults yet? What would that feel like for me, and (as importantly), what would it feel like for them?

I physically cringed at Campagnola’s statement that, “Children are seen as a distraction, and indeed they can be distracting as they respond to what is happening in worship and teaching that does not reflect their presence” (73), but not as much as I did when I read her follow-up questions 14 pages later: ““Is this relevant? Is this transferable to contemporary culture? Is there room in the ethics and handling of children for this perspective? Is there room in modern churches? Who is distracting whom?” (87).

Then it hits me: when we in the church refuse to become child-like, we are being childish; in not wanting to bring our children “into our midst,” we are being selfish; in not considering our children as “models of kingdom life,” we are being proud; in not looking to our children as “mirrors of kingdom hearts,” we are being blind; and in not honoring our children as “martyrs of kingdom rejection,” we are being unjust.

Is this the kind of existence Jesus calls us to embrace? Hardly. Is this the kind of life Paul calls us to forsake? Indeed. Perhaps we should spend more time wondering about children and their place in the church and less time thinking about adults and their place in heaven.

By Jesus’ own words, I wonder if there will be any adults in heaven anyway.

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  1. I wish to fully affirm your two most recent posts. In the congregations I serve, I often express that we (adults) would do well to learn from our children. I believe the prophecy that “a child shall lead them” (while most assuredly referring to the incarnation) may have a great and much further reach than often understood.

    Craig, thanks for the heads-up about Campagnola’s book. I’ll have to pick up a copy!! Peace . . . .

  2. Thanks for the affirmation. Another helpful book I just finished is Children Matter by Beth Posterski (et. al.). While there’s some good theory, the practitioner portions would be very good for those involved in children’s ministry.

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