Faith Like a Child

Jesus said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:3

Last week, Resurrection Lutheran held our annual Vacation Bible School. Kids and adults came together to grow in faith, putting on the armor of God to face all of the day’s challenges. They saw how their faith connected not only with worship and Bible study, but also with crafts, science, and games. This week, seven of our students are at Lutheran Lakeside Camp, immersed in the theme “PROMISES>PROBLEMS,” reminding them that God’s promises are always greater than the problems we face.

Did you participate in VBS or church camp as a child? I’m guessing that if you did, it was memorable. There is something about these experiences that makes an impression. An article about the impact of church camps put it this way: “Campers … are immersed in a faith-forming environment in which the songs, games, and activities become part of a theological playground. They do not just study God or take in information about God, as they might be asked to do in confirmation class or listening to a sermon in church. Instead, they experience a life that is caught up with and dependent on God’s ongoing activity in the world.” (Episcopal Teacher, 2017)

Life that is caught up with and dependent on God’s ongoing activity in the world. That’s a pretty good definition of Christian discipleship, actually. Faith isn’t just taking in information or agreeing to a set of belief statements. Discipleship isn’t some kind of self-improvement journey to get better behaved. It’s an everyday awareness that there is a connection between “blessed are the peacemakers” and being the first person to apologize. Between “love your neighbor” and making sure everyone is included. Between “you shall not bear false witness” and speaking well of people, even the ones you don’t like much. Between “I am with you always” and God being present in even the very worst moments of our lives. 

Kids have a knack for doing this. They don’t compartmentalize their lives like adults, who make clear lines between church, work, home, and play. Kids see the connections between their faith and, well, everything else. They see “God’s ongoing activity in the world” at all times and in all places. Maybe that’s what Jesus was really getting at with his disciples when he told them they needed to be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven, and when he taught them to pray “your kingdom come on earth as in heaven.” 

God’s kingdom isn’t far-off, saved for an afterlife of paradise, but here and now, if we have eyes to see it. When we become like children and see that God is active in every part of our lives, we realize that we’re already living in the kingdom of heaven. All that’s left is to look and see what God is doing as we live each day as God’s children.

God, make me like a little child. Show me where you are already active in the world, so I can see your kingdom of heaven come on earth. Amen.