"Children were brought to him so that he could lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them'" (Matt. 19:13–14).
With these words, Jesus tells us that children are important. And his assertion that the kingdom of God belongs to them is a message we need still today: in our time no less than his, children are often not wanted.
Adults often fail to grasp how near to God children already are. We forget that, as Jesus says, "their angels always have access to my Father." "Angel" means "messenger." Guardian angels are spiritual messengers, spirits sent by God to protect and guide children. Unlike these angels, and unlike children, we cannot see God. Yet we can see children, and we can receive them into our hearts. In receiving them, we receive Jesus himself (Luke 9:48).
How do we bring children to Jesus? First of all, we must believe in him ourselves, and come to him with trust and faith. In the New Testament we read how Simeon and Anna – two very old people – waited their whole lives for the Messiah, the "consolation of Israel." When Jesus was born, they welcomed the new baby with joy and belief. Now they could face death without fear and could live in peace.
As a pastor I am often asked to bless newborn babies, and it is one of the most wonderful things I do. Jesus himself says that "whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me" (Mark 9:37). This attitude of love and faith is what the childlike spirit is all about.
Everyone loves a new baby, but even babies can quickly test our patience and may soon seem to be a burden or inconvenience. But no matter how much trouble they bring, children are a gift from God. When we welcome them in this way, God will surely bless us and give us the strength to raise them. This should be an encouragement to all young families and to those who are thinking of founding a family. Especially when we face adversity, God is waiting to help us, providing we pray and ask, seek and knock (Matt. 7:7–11). Then doors will be opened.
In a time when childlike faith is despised and mocked like never before, we would do well to remember Jesus' words about becoming like children – and his promise that they will be the greatest in the age to come: "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3-4).
For the sake of children everywhere, one wishes that this kingdom might come very soon.
From Why Children Matter by Johann Christoph Arnold.