"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But his disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."" (Matt. 19:13 & 14)
But don't stop there. Flip open your bible and read that bit again, and then continue reading all the way to the end of the chapter.
For those of you lazy enough not to do what I tell you you to, (Shame on you) the story that follows the blessing of the kids is the one about the rich, young ruler who gets frustrated because Jesus advises him to get rid of everything he has and simply follow him.
I don't think it's an accident that Levi put those stories next to each other like that. Little kids in all of their naive' innocence being blessed by Jesus, with parents acting in very basic faith, contrasted with a very intelligent & wealthy fella getting everything all complicated and walking away frustrated.
Not long before this, Jesus disciples were asking him which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus' response? "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, 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. 18:2-4)
I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that one.
You ever get the feeling that we try and complicate Christianity too much? Well, maybe Christianity IS complicated. But I don't think that Jesus is.
I woke up this morning and was reading various posts on blogs and news sites. Most of it was about theological stuff. Plenty of it is still on Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins." One of my favorite sites is from an old seminary professor of mine, Dr. Roger Olson.
Here's a link to a book review he did of Bell's book. http://rogereolson.com/2011/03/25/the-promised-response-to-bells-love-wins/
Here's a link to another post of his that really got me thinking about how confusing we make Christianity out to be in the U.S. http://rogereolson.com/2011/03/24/the-new-fundamentalism/
"New Fundamentalism?" I'm not even sure what the old fundamentalism was supposed to be...other than polyester suits and bad haircuts.
It did make me think back to the very first post that I did on this blog. http://trippingstumblingwhilefollowingjesus.blogspot.com/2009/09/elvis-jesus-memphis.html (My friends were right. I was way too "Wordy" back then.)
My friend Brian & I had taken a road trip to Tennessee to see the music sites. We were in Memphis and I noticed a ton of church buildings everywhere. Then I started to read the names of the "Churches." I saw "New Faith Baptist Church." The next block had an "Old Faith Baptist Church." A block after that was the "NEW Old Faith Baptist Church." (You can guess where I am going with this.)
Should it really be that complicated?
When I was a baby, my Dad would hold me up with one arm while I stood in his palm eating a cracker. (Gotta find that picture somewhere.) I didn't have a complicated understanding of HOW Dad did that, or the reasons WHY I could trust him. I just trusted. He's my Daddy.
Then I grew up.
I learned that to be able to trust my Dad, I had to understand everything about him. I had to understand the specifics of how his arm worked in relation to gravity. I had to believe that my Dad had predestined me to stand in his hand...even though others argued that I was "Preveniently" given the choice to stand there. I had to understand what it was that motivated him to love me, and why he would hold me aloft in the first place. Later, I would take classes at Bethel Seminary to understand why I was given a cracker to eat while my Dad held me. (There were advanced classes in which crackers were to be used for particular denominations, and what they represented.)
I should state that while in High School, I developed a fixation with "Eschatology," the study of End-Times. I read a lot of books on prophecy that predicted when my Dad's arm would get tired, and what crackers & juice would be served in the new heaven & earth. I had heard that the "Rapture" (Or the "Dropping of the Arm in the Blink of an Eye.") would occur in 1988. I was pleased at this, since it was predicted to happen during a period of tough exams at Bethel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_C._Whisenant
All along, I was told by numerous people not to associate myself with others who did not stand in their Dad's hands properly. It wasn't good enough for them to simply stand there trusting. They had to have the proper concept of their Dads. I was warned to be wary of certain crackers that were used by other hand-standers. They could cause fits of the spleen if digested improperly.
The following is often what was done by me and my friends to those who were not proper hand-standers.
After I went into the ministry, I got beat up by a whole bunch of people who claimed that they were standing in their Dad's hand. For a time, I was very angry with my Dad for letting this happen to me. These people claimed to be hand-standers. They could tell me everything I needed to know for good, orthodox hand-standing. But when they hit me, I didn't see them standing in any hands at all.
So where am I now? Well, I think that learning about my Dad is very, very important. I should try to understand him. He's my Dad after all. However, I don't think that I really need to understand every little nuance about him to be able to simply stand in his hand. I know he loves me and that I can trust him. He is my Dad after all.
When it comes to other hand-standers...well, I guess I should keep my eyes open and watch you stand. I mean, you can tell me all about the proper techniques of hand-standing, and which cracker I should use & why. You can even tell me all about your Dad. You can break down your understanding of your Dad into tombs of literature that is very impressive indeed.
But I still have to actually SEE you stand in his hand to believe you. And that often takes time & patience on my part. So I won't judge you...at least not at first...hopefully not for a long time. But I still have to watch you get in that hand, take that cracker and stand there with the palm open as he raises you up over his head.
Back to Matthew 18: "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But anyone who causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea...see that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matt. 18:5-6 & 10-11)
What is it about little kids & Jesus? They seem to know a lot more about innocent faith than adults do.
I don't wanna grow up. I prefer being a child. (If only I could go back again)
P.S. Is "Christianity" a religion? Or can it just be a relationship with Jesus?
I had no idea that the two strains of Judaism were Hasidic and Alkali. (Get it????) Hahahaha.