God is like a child?

It was Jesus who first shocked people by comparing God to a child.

In Mark 9:37, Jesus took a child in his arms and told his disciples that loving a child was the same as loving him, AND loving the Father too. That’s like a boy saying to his girlfriend, “If you love golf you love me, because golf is me, it’s my life, it’s what makes me tick.” Likewise, to love a child is to love God because the heart of a child is what makes GOD tick.

Mark 10:14 backs that up too. “Let little children come to me,” Jesus told his disciples, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Or as The Message phrases it, “Children are at the very centre of life in the kingdom.” The heartbeat of God and his world is the heartbeat of a child. It’s hardly surprising, then, when Jesus says in verse 15 that no one enters that world who ISN’T like a child. But how CAN anyone enter the kingdom without being childlike when the kingdom of God operates on childlikeness? It’s the engine that drives it.

This was radical stuff for the disciples, who’d just told a group of parents – hoping to have their children blessed by Jesus – to push off. In their minds Jesus wasn’t the least bit interested in children, because the culture of the day didn’t think much of children either. The idea that God was like a child, therefore, seemed ludicrous. How could God be compared to a child when the Scriptures clearly pictured him as a great ruler and mighty majesty on a grand throne before whom every knee must bow?

Jesus, however, was sent by the Father to show us what the Father is really like, and in terms that we can understand too. He was quick to grab a teachable moment, therefore, when he overheard the disciples arguing among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. That’s when Jesus picks up a child, and holding the child in his arms he turns to his disciples and says, “If you really want to know what God and his kingdom are like, this child is the perfect picture.”

So here we’ve got Jesus, who actually WAS the greatest in the kingdom of God and Lord of all, illustrating to people who WANTED to be the greatest and lord it over everybody, pointing to this child in his arms and saying God is like that. He’s like a child. At the heart and centre of God’s kingdom, of God himself, and of Jesus himself too, is the childlikeness of a child.

Advertisements

Why are children so important to God?

In Mark 9:37, Jesus made a remarkable statement about children: “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me.”

It’s the “in my name” bit that explains why children are so important to God, because “in my name” means a child represents Jesus perfectly. That’s WHY we “welcome a little child,” BECAUSE he (or she) represents Jesus so well. So, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this because he represents me perfectly” then makes sense of  “welcomes me” too, because if we welcome what represents Jesus perfectly we’re obviously welcoming him!

So what does “representing” Jesus mean? It means being like him. It puts children in a completely different light, because according to the one who created children in the first place, children are the perfect visible likeness of him. He is like a child, in other words. When Jesus lifted that child into his arms, he did it to illustrate and explain, “This child is what I’m like, so if you welcome a child with that in mind, you’re automatically welcoming me.”

Jesus then takes things one step further by adding, “anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me.” So, Jesus is saying, if what you see in a child leads you to welcoming me, then realize you’re automatically welcoming the Father too, because Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father – “See me,” he said, “and you see the Father” (John 14:9).

You mean the FATHER is just like a child too?! But if the Father sent Jesus to show us what he (the Father) is like, and Jesus is now pointing to a child to show us what he (Jesus) is like, then, yes, the Father is perfectly represented by a child too. Everything Jesus said and did was in his Father’s name – his Father’s words, his Father’s works – all of it meant to reveal the Father in some way, and now here was Jesus saying a child not only revealed what Jesus was like, but revealed his Father too.

The great, majestic God is best represented and best pictured by a child, meaning the heart and nature of God is childlike. Which makes it so easy to “welcome” him. Who can resist a child at that loveable, huggable stage? Well, that’s what God is like! His devotion to us is so childlike. His aims are so simple. He wants nothing for himself. That’s our God, and he sent Jesus to show us that, which Jesus then did by holding a child in his arms and saying, “THIS is what GOD is like!”

Is suicide forgivable?

Why would Christ die to forgive every sin but suicide? Because, some say, suicide is premeditated murder, and no murderer has eternal life in him (1 John 3:15).

But adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunks and cheats don’t have eternal life in them either (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), so why should murder be any different? Because, some say, a person who kills himself cannot confess his sin, and if he doesn’t publicly confess his sin he cannot be saved (Romans 10:10). Therefore, he goes straight to hell.

But what about verses 8, 9 and 11 in the same chapter that show, in context, that it isn’t confessing one’s sins that saves a person, it’s confessing their faith in Christ? Ah, yes, some argue, but doesn’t the Bible say that if we deliberately destroy our bodies, God will destroy us (1 Corinthians 3:17)?

Well, yes, that would be true if that verse is talking about suicide, but it isn’t. In context it’s talking about a person wrecking his life because he insists on living by the world’s standards, not God’s.

But, some argue back, our bodies are not our own, they belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19), so if we take what belongs to him and deliberately destroy it by suicide that’s not living by God’s standards either, is it? No, it isn’t, but the context in 1 Corinthians 6 has nothing whatsoever to do with suicide, it’s talking about the misuse of our bodies by sexual immorality.

Yes, but, some also argue, God decides the length of our lives, not us. But if that’s the case why does any Christian take medication? Isn’t that interfering with God’s plan for his life by using human means to keep himself alive? And what if the medication has side effects that damage his body, yet he still deliberately takes the medication knowing that?

Yes, but, without medication our lives would be hell; the pain would be too much to bear. And that’s true too, just like it is for people who kill themselves. Their pain is too much to bear as well, but for them there is no help in medication. So every day is hell, and suicide is the only way out of it. They only want to end the pain. And why would God not forgive them for not being able to bear pain? Well, some say, they should trust God to help them through it, not take things into their own hands. Oh really? And when have you always perfectly done that when you were in excruciating, unceasing mental and physical agony?

Fortunately, there is nothing that separates us from the love of God, even when our pain drives us to suicide and not to him (Romans 8:31-35).

Is there hope for murdered children and their killers?

We live in a world that allows lethal child-murderers back into the community, many of whom are still dangerous predators and always will be. They show no remorse, no desire to understand the impact of their crime, and they do not seek help willingly. And we still haven’t come up with a failsafe way of protecting children from them.

Unfortunately, our inadequacy causes both the innocent and the criminal to suffer. The criminal suffers because the community views him with fear and revulsion, and he lives the life of a caged animal. Children suffer greatly too, because their joy-filled view on life is frequently shattered by news of hideous murders, perhaps in their own neighbourhood, requiring stern warnings from their parents to never talk to strangers. What child nowadays can wander alone without a care in the world? It’s absolutely ludicrous that we think of ourselves as a civilized and advanced society when we still cannot guarantee protection for our children or healing for the addicted.

The only thing that keeps me sane in such utter futility is the hope of a better life after this one, because this life is brutally unfair on the innocent and woefully inadequate in restoring the mentally ill. I hang on to the hope Jesus offered – and staked his own life to a cross as our guarantee of it – that he would personally lift us to a life beyond this one where the innocent won’t ever suffer again and restoration is guaranteed for all. The Bible’s underlying message is about another world being formed, described in the book of Acts as “the times of restitution of all things,” which God guarantees through Jesus Christ.

I like that phrase “all things,” because it covers everything and everybody, criminals and innocent alike. If an innocent life is cut tragically short by murder in this world it’s not the end of life forever. But nor is it the end for a life wrecked by addiction, either. Both will be restored.

Applying that same hope equally to all people, both guilty and innocent, is what keeps me going in this ridiculous world. I rest assured that one day innocent children will stand beside their killers and they will all receive the life and rehabilitation they couldn’t get in this life.

It doesn’t remove the horror of evil now or the helplessness of our inadequacy, but to those who are trying so hard to protect our children and reintegrate lethal criminals into the community, it offers hope and encouragement that God will make happen later what we couldn’t make happen now.

What if no one’s interested?

A Christian told me of his frustration that no matter what he did for his family, or what he said to his kids and grandkids, not one of them was interested in God. None of them asked about God, and some of them resented any hint of God. He kept on helping them out anyway with money, practical help, babysitting and a listening ear, but any suggestion from him that God could also help them was immediately rejected.

But their family problems were huge – marriage break-ups, angry teenagers, depression, money problems, drug addiction, sexual confusion, kids out of control, and parents distracted by their own problems. And the only help they had came from pills, counselling sessions with professionals, talking the Christian’s ear off with their problems, and dumping their children and their animals on him whenever things at their own homes were too much to handle. That was their way of coping, and  they stuck to it, even when it was obvious that nothing was being resolved.

It was horribly discouraging, because if the Christian couldn’t reach his own family with God’s love, in both word and deed, what hope was there of reaching anyone in this culture? Are people so taken up with their problems that just surviving each day consumes them? And is their view of God so twisted by religion and the culture that just the mention of his name nowadays makes them angry?

God, however, is the master of timing. He knows what conditions a seed needs to germinate and grow. Some seeds need a long period of dormancy or darkness, others need heat, fire and extreme conditions to crack a hard outer shell, while others need careful nurturing under the care of an expert before they finally give in and grow. Different seeds have different needs. And since God made it that way on purpose for seeds, why not for humans too? We’re all unique and God made us that way, so it’s clearly up to him and his skills, therefore, to know how to make a human germinate and grow. And some people give in and grow very easily in response to his love, while tougher nuts are harder to crack.

Some may even need a period of hell, either in this life or in some sort of hell in the future. But the goal is always the same, to reach into that seed’s DNA and find the formula that stirs it to life. And only God knows that. So if a person isn’t interested in God now, that’s God’s business, because he knows exactly how to stir them to life in the best way for them.

Romans 10:9 – two views

Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

The problem with that verse is that Christians interpret it quite differently and it divides Christians into two camps. One camp says it means salvation depends on something WE must do first, because Paul clearly says, “IF YOU confess and believe …. you will be saved.” It looks like salvation is conditional, that we are saved ON CONDITION that we confess and believe first. So if someone doesn’t confess and believe, it means they won’t be saved. What WE do toward our salvation, therefore, is very important. That’s the first camp.

The other camp says, “Not on your life, chum, read the context,” the context being Paul’s fellow Israelites (verse 1) who were going about salvation the wrong way BECAUSE they thought salvation was conditional. They thought salvation depended on them being “zealous for God” (verse 2) and establishing “their own righteousness” (verse 3) by obeying the law (verse 5). But Paul says no, Christ ended all that (verse 4) and now “righteousness comes from God.” It’s a gift, requiring nothing from them anymore. God had provided them with all the salvation and righteousness they could ever want or need in Jesus, BECAUSE “Jesus is LORD OF ALL and richly blesses those who call on him,” verse 12.

According to the second camp, then, Paul is telling his fellow Israelites that Jesus, in his present position as “Lord of all,” is in total control of our salvation. HE will take care of it. And anyone who recognizes that and says to himself, “Of course Jesus will take care of my salvation, because THAT’s what he was resurrected from the dead and made Lord of all FOR,” is on the right road at last to receiving from Jesus ALL the salvation and righteousness that only he can give.

With this in mind Paul would love his fellow Israelites to smack themselves on the forehead and say, “Oh I see. We get it. Jesus is Lord of all, so of course we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that he’ll save us. It’s guaranteed. And it was there all along in the Old Testament too, that ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame’ (Romans 9:33, Isaiah 28:16).”

The focus of Romans 10:9 according to the second camp, therefore, is not what we must do for salvation but what God has already done for us in raising Jesus from the dead and making him Lord of all. And with Jesus as Lord of all, of course we will be saved.