I can remember parts of an argument I had while in a church (not my own) years ago. I can’t remember the topic, but I remember one guy getting owned. His opponents kept pushing him further and further back, forcing concession after concession. Finally they asked, “So why do you believe this at all?” The guy beamed in response and said with the pride of a triumphant lion, “Because I have the faith of a child!”
The argument fizzled at that point.
Growing up in religious circles I, like that guy, had always thought faith like a child meant unquestioning acceptance. But these days, I gotta say, unquestioning belief doesn’t seem like much of a virtue, does it? Do you think that’s what Jesus really meant when he told us that we needed to be like children (Matt. 18:1-3)?
And then I had kids. And let me tell you, there is nothing unquestioning about them.
What are children like?
Children are relentless. They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Heck, half the time they won’t even take ‘yes’ for an answer. You can’t dissuade them. You may be able to distract them, but you can’t just turn them off.
Children cannot tell the difference between sacred and secular. The world is one to them. There is no dualism. There is no high vs. low. There is only reality. It seems irreverent, but it’s honest. And, I wonder, maybe honesty is better and safer than reverence. Reverence has stopped us from asking too many important questions. And it’s funny, because I don’t remember God ever zapping someone for asking the wrong questions.
Children don’t know when they are asking inappropriate questions. The other day Joseph saw a large woman in the grocery store. He turned to me and asked, very loudly, ‘Papa, why is she so fat?’ Did she hear? You bet! Her response: ‘It’s true, though, isn’t it?’ Joe didn’t know he did anything wrong. And, when I think about it, I don’t think he did. It gave me a good opportunity to talk about sedentary living and poor diet (in private). And these days, he turns away cookies because he says he wants to grow up strong. Good thing he asked that inappropriate question.
Children change. One day the boy says ‘Girls are yuck!’ The next day…well, watch out! Kids never arrive. They are never static. And growing is not just more of the same with them. The boy doesn’t go from saying ‘girls are yuck’ to ‘girls are yuck for the following exegetical reasons…’ He turns completely around and starts liking girls. He contradicts his previous beliefs altogether. And no one thinks him deceitful for it because he is growing. Heck, if he didn’t change his views on girls we would be concerned.
Children can play with anyone. A Christian kid with a Muslim kid. A Republican kid with a Democrat kid. A kid from a homosexual home with a kid from a straight home. A fox with a hound. It’s only after we grow up that we accept the dark fact that we are only supposed to play with people who are similar to ourselves.
Children do not acknowledge, they exult. A child would never pray that typical prayer: ‘Lord, we acknowledge this, that, and the other truth about you.’ Even as an adult, it seems like a strange prayer. Instead, if the child is thinking about some wild and wonderful truth, he’ll get giddy and won’t shut up about it.
Is that what Jesus meant? I dunno. I’m still a kid in all this.