When I was first thinking through how to title this blog post, I was going to call the Kingdom “upside down.” But the more I thought about that, the less that I liked it. The Kingdom is upside down to us, sure, but it’s because our perspective is incorrect. We can easily view the commands and teachings of Jesus strange or unusual, but the truth is that he is correct and we are not. One of the verses that I’ve often returned to this year reminds me of God’s infinite perspective that we simply don’t have.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
How Jesus teaches us to live seems upside down but, in reality, we are the ones who are backward and he is correcting us. His life shows us how we were created to operate.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4 (NIV)
Can you imagine the disciples’ reaction to this particular declaration? These guys had been following Jesus around for a while now, they had been sent out to heal people, and had been participants in some pretty cool miracles! I would imagine that these guys would’ve been thinking pretty highly of themselves by this point. They, like many of us, were focused on themselves and making their own names great.
Even before social media and celebrities, these Jesus-followers were concerned about their own greatness.
But Jesus didn’t take the bait and continued to teach them as he had for years: the least will always be first in the Kingdom. If we seek our identity in our wealth, position, or fame, we will always be let down. The Kingdom isn’t concerned with making us look great because when we’re the heroes we’re the only ones who benefit. But when our every action and interaction is fueled by faith in God, then everyone benefits.
I wonder what the disciples were thinking when Jesus called a small child to him. Had the kid who responded to Jesus’s call been one they had just shooed away? Did they have to give up their spot next to Jesus in order to make room for this child? Did the puff up with pride? Deflate with shame? Or receive Jesus’s instructions gladly?
A child does most everything based on faith because they have nothing else to go off of. They know not to do a thing because they trust their parents’ instruction. They don’t worry about making ends meet because they know who their provider is. They know who they are because of what their parents have told them so they don’t need to look elsewhere. In our hurting and fallen world, this doesn’t line up with the current experiences of many children, but in the Kingdom, we exist on trust and faith in our good Father.
This year, I’ve been learning that God sees things so much differently than we do and I just have to trust that he is right and my filter is incorrect. While the world tells us that we need to make a name for ourselves, build our brand, and be successful, Jesus tells us to humble ourselves, submit, and trust. The Kingdom is counter-cultural to the world. When we live like Jesus and we take on the trusting, loving, and free perspective of a child, we are representing him to the world.
Let’s choose to have the faith of a child today!
How is the Kingdom different than the culture you were raised in?
How do you practically “become like little children” as Jesus instructed?