There are some things that amaze me about children. They like to play with dirty things and the things that may be contaminated, such as puddles of water. Give any toddler a chance, he/she would skip all the beautiful furniture in the house, all the expensive toys you bought him/her and run straight to the toilet bowl. When I was a child, there was nothing more gratifying than playing football/soccer outside in the mud.
I once bought my 8-year-old little sister a $40 doll (maybe $100 today). It was way back in the 80s. The doll was about one foot tall and could speak, walk, drink from a bottle, and wink its eyes. Within days, she did not care for it; didn’t know where it was when you asked. But, from the ground outside, she dug up a dirty figurine that someone had discarded. It was a 2-inch Chinese woman figure made of glass. It was dirty, missing one leg, discolored and didn’t seem to serve any purpose. It was clear that someone had trashed this useless, dirty, ugly ornament. However, the day my sister lost that figurine, she wept as though a family member had died.
Matthew 18:3: Records Jesus saying, “…verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Essentially, a conversion needs to take place in Christians that restores childlike characteristics such as discussed in the anecdote above.
To be converted: Rehabilitated, renewed, altered, transformed and renovated. So, let us discuss three childlike traits that Christians may do well to adopt:
Trait 1: Children see value in the seemingly valueless.
Why do children see value in the seemingly valueless and Christians do not? Somehow children can see the importance in trash even before the dirt is removed – before it is cleaned. Yet, we as Christians look for perfection from people who are looking for redemption. The scriptures tell us the wheat and tares will grow together and only at the harvest will we be able to differentiate one from the other. Children know that very well, while adults are stuck in judgement rather than restoration.
Jesus never gave a description of fish to catch – what they should look like. He never even said where to fish. He said go catch fish. He did not differentiate between evil fish and holy fish. One thing is for certain; he did not command us to clean them first. He never instructed us to catch honest fish and leave the hypocrites in the water; catch the truthful and leave the liars; catch the tithe-paying and leave the cheap; catch the straight and leave the gay; catch faithful and leave the fornicator. The process of bringing people into the kingdom of God must be done the same way children operate. They are trusting, non-judgmental, forgiving, humble and caring – the traits we lost in the process of becoming adults.
Trait 2: Children are followers not bosses.
There is reasoning why the qualifier ‘little’ is used before children in the above quoted scripture:
Human babies are born very dependent on their parents. They undergo huge brain development, growth and neuron pruning in the first two years of life. The brain development of infants (as well as their social, emotional and cognitive development) depends on a loving bond or attachment relationship with a primary caregiver, usually a parent (London J Prim Care, 2016). At that stage, children are always aware that there are things they cannot do by themselves and leave those things up to their parents or other adults. They are quick to recognize their limitations. That is why the scripture begs us to become as little children. So, in order to be converted into little children, you must first recognize your dependency on God as the child waits on his mother and father.
Trait 3: Young children do children things and wait for adults to do adult things
Believe it or not, children listen: In the process of literacy-cognitive growth, children develop only as their ability to hear matures. Out of that, they can mimic the sound they hear around them. In the same way, Jesus says my sheep hear my voice and follows me. One thing you must learn about sheep is they bleat to get the shepherd’s attention but once he is in their presence, they keep quiet and follow. In the same way little children listen when their parents speak.
It is amazing what would happen if we shut up and get out of God’s way. We are experts at fixing people when they appear in our churches: don’t wear short dresses, don’t work on the sabbath, don’t eat this and don’t eat that – we hound them, never giving the Holy Spirit time to do its work. Newsflash, the spirit is capable of changing people from anything to anything it desires!
2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This year I just want us to catch fish – let the spirit do the selecting, gutting, the scaling; give the spirit time to probe, challenge, convict people and grow them.
Call to action:
Do all you can to catch fish, just catch fish, throw your line out and catch fish.
Use whatever hook you’ve got and bring them in.
Professional fishermen can catch fish, hobby fishermen can catch fish, professionals will catch fish and even amateurs can do the same. At the bare minimum, children can catch fish too.
If you cast your line, someone will come. Who knows, the fish you catch may be your child, your spouse or even your enemy.
But remember to do like children: do not judge the fish you catch.