The Faith of a Child

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This child seriously likes sleeping with her Shine On story Bible. Photo provided.

This is an old topic, as old as the words of Jesus—one of the wisest philosophers who ever lived (and a whole lot more, but we’ll just go with this description for now). Jesus knew a great deal about human nature. Jesus told his followers and others who lived in his time two thousand years ago that to have faith in God, we must become like little children.

Small children can provide wonderful reminders of what it means to have trust.

We must be like little children in what we know and accept. Not childish. Jesus keenly pointed out the difference several times with his disciples.

Small children can provide wonderful reminders of what it means to have trust. I was charmed and amazed at how earnestly my grandson prayed for his newborn brother going through difficult times during extra weeks spent in a children’s hospital. He did not need to know or understand either the complexities of a swallowing disorder or Christocentric theology. While at age almost three his “prayer” is mainly copying what he’s seen others do or say, in another sense he and other children did what Jesus asks of all of us: become like a child. Matthew 18 puts it: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Perhaps one of the more heartwarming stories in the New Testament is (ironically) Jesus telling off the disciples when parents try to bring their children to Jesus. The disciples assumed Jesus was too busy, or the children too unimportant. Mark 10 says, “But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the 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 shall not enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”

My grandson’s eagerness to pray was perhaps picked up just from mealtime and bedtime prayers, and going to church from an early age. Apparently the teachers/caretakers at his (non-religious) daycare also say grace, and end with the charge, “Now everybody eat!”

I think of another family. Going to church was not a practice in the family. When they moved near to where one set of grandparents lived, the oldest daughter loved going to church with her grandparents. Eventually the younger daughter wanted to go to church with Grandpa and Grandma too—likely just so she didn’t miss out on that “grandparent time.”

Soon the older girl, in the wise and cut-to-the-chase manner of children, asked her father why he didn’t come along to church too.

This man said he had no answer for his daughter, and began attending. Eventually he joined the church and became very active in the church and his faith. I know he would not change that path, even though the journey for his family has not been smooth.

Of course, faith doesn’t always mean prayers are answered in the way we want. But God promises to be with us always. We can place our faith in the Creator of the universe, who provides a permanent dwelling place for us for all time.

We can debate opinions, take apart philosophies, and even argue about the founders of various religions. But Jesus simply reminds us: have faith like a child.

Even as adults, we don’t understand all of who God is. Faith comes to children in little tidbits: stories they hear, examples we or others show, affirmations that God is very special and different from Mommy and Daddy, and that God loves us all. These are the foundations of faith.

 

For a free booklet, “Talking with Your Kids about God and Faith,” write to me at MelodieD@MennoMedia.org or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

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