February 6, 2013 by Dwight Bernier
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” – Jesus (Mark 14.15)
Jesus is not a religious figure or statue in our house. Jesus is very present. In our family, we talk about Him, pray to Him, sing to Him, read about Him, and we do it all with our kids. Hopefully, we are modeling what it looks like to have a real, ongoing, dependent relationship with Him.
But sometimes, my three year-old son models better for me what it looks like to be dependent on Jesus. Now, I don’t pretend that Nehemiah grasps the full significance of the cross or resurrection, though we talk about it often. He doesn’t comprehend justification. But He does seem to grasp that Jesus loves Him and died for Him so He could have a clean heart that loves God, Daddy, Mommy, his brother, our neighbors and friends. We talk often about God being a better Dad than Daddy. He is also keenly aware that there are things we ask Jesus to do for us because we can’t do them for ourselves. And He takes the lead on this many times in our house.
For example, whenever someone is sick, Nehemiah wants to pray to Jesus to make them better. That is noble. But after Nehemiah is finished praying, he asks, “Do you feel better?”, expecting that Jesus took care of the problem. It’s not just something he does. He expects Jesus to work. This morning, when I was leaving for work, he told me that his tummy didn’t feel well. He has had the flu for a couple days. Almost immediately after he told me, he asked, “Daddy, can you pray to Jesus to make it better?” I went over, laid hands on him, and prayed. When I was done, he had a big smile and said, “I feel better!”
Sure, we can argue that his little three year-old mind is manipulating him to believe that he is better because of Jesus. But that’s not how three year-olds work. That’s how adults work. We manipulate and trick ourselves into thinking certain things are possible or not possible. But not three year-olds. They know they are dependent and they trust. My son trusts Jesus as if Jesus is a real person able to fix what is wrong. And the beautiful thing is that Jesus is a real, resurrected person who is God, able to fix, mend, heal and transform. My son really gets this. I often don’t. I bring the complexities of my unbelief, past experiences, unanswered prayers, former beliefs, and religiosity into the equation. But not my son.
Most recently, my wife hasn’t been able to attend worship gatherings on Sunday due to pregnancy-related pains. Therefore, I’ve been the one driving my son to the gathering. On the way there, he always asks what we are going to do at the church building (a movie theater). I tell him what he is going to do (nursery) and then tell him I am going to preach and tell people about Jesus. I ask if he wants to pray, and he always does. He prays for me to preach and thanks Jesus for me. His little prayers of dependence and thankfulness make me want to pray more like my son and less like the Pharisees.
There is so much packed into what Jesus said about receiving the kingdom like a child. But simply put, we’re meant to be more like kids who are needy, then adults who “know what we’re doing”. Jesus isn’t saying to remain childish, but to remain childlike. If you can’t understand what that means, spend time with little kids and watch how they interact with those whom they depend on and trust. Listen to how children talk about Jesus and how they believe what is true about Him – that He can do anything!
Be intentional about Jesus in your home. Talk about Him. Sing about Him. Speak to Him as if He can actually do something about your situation. Lay hands on one another often. Pray to Jesus for problems, for neighbors, and for fun. Nehemiah wants to talk to Jesus just for fun! I want that too!
Jesus is not a religious figure to be hung on a wall, around your neck, or in your car. He is alive, moving, active, and pursuing the nations through the good news of His death and resurrection. May the Spirit grow us in our childlike dependence on our Dad and big brother, Jesus.