July 8, 2018 • Life for Leaders
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who taught that we should come before God and others with authenticity. In today’s passage, Jesus teaches about the importance of being like a child.
When Jesus implores his disciples to not rebuke the crowds for handing babies to him to bless, he highlights childlikeness as a prerequisite for entering the kingdom of heaven. Keep in mind that Jesus was not placing value on any modern Western ideal of “cuteness” but rather on the first-century assumption that children had little power or leverage to control others. The aspect of coming to God like a child, in this case, implies much more about personal vulnerability than anything else.
In Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator, they refer to the late Dallas Willard’s observation that most adults learn to hide their true selves: “The opposite, Willard observed, is childlike openness and transparency. ‘Those who have attained considerable spiritual stature are frequently noted for their “childlikeness.” What this really means is that they do not use their face and body to hide their spiritual reality’” (89).
Willard’s point is that a child’s vulnerability is their inability to hide behind any kind of facade that can control others. But we adults learn quickly that we must hide our true selves in order to manage others, pursue our goals, and avoid things we fear. This refusal to be authentically vulnerable and insistence to put on the appearance of strength and control is what Jesus warns may ruin our relationship with God. As leaders, we know that this inclination to not be our true selves damages our relationships with others as well. Let’s commit to this radical childlikeness that refuses to hide behind facades which keep us far from God and those we lead.
Something to Think About:
“Most of us spend the bulk of our adult lives engaged in the exhausting activity of trying to get others to accept something that does not exist: the only partially-accurate image of ourselves we want them to think is real” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 89).
Something to Do:
The late Henri Nouwen preached at the Crystal Cathedral on the topic of “Being the Beloved.” Watch his sermon, and hear how he touches on aspects of the false-self and our true identity as God’s beloved child: “Being the Beloved.”
Lord, I have nothing to fear when I fully embrace my identity as your child, whose identity is secure in you. You welcome vulnerability, authenticity, and a simple desire to be near to you. Help me to find freedom in knowing that I don’t have to exhaust myself trying to control others’ perception of me. Help me become a leader who is unafraid to reveal my total dependence on you. Amen.