“But while the prodigal son was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” ~Luke 15:20 (NRSV).
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 18:3 (NRSV).
Jesus naturally talked a lot about faith in the Gospels. We get hundreds or potentially thousands of different glimpses, each custom-designed to the unique mindset of each person, and preferably backed in truth.
It’s just as true that many people complain about never having had a childhood or having it interrupted or abbreviated. Indeed, so many of us have been scolded for not growing up quickly enough—even despising the childhood for the unwanted immaturity that’s associated with such a phase.
Just why do we rush our children through childhood—in the process pushing them headlong into an often-stupid adult world?
Jesus, as per usual, is turning the tables on our commonsense. In Matthew 18:3, our Lord might be telling us that if can’t approach life as children-at-heart-and-mind we cannot understand the kingdom. A pre-requisite for understanding the kingdom of heaven is a childlike faith. Only as children-at-heart-and-mind can we enjoy the concept of heaven now.
This childlike faith—the ‘toll’ for entry into a viewed kingdom now—is sandwiched between our arrogant and self-powered adult blindness and true salvation. No one can live the saved life unless he or she sees like a child.
It’s most reassuring to recognise that God favours not the smart, the advantaged, or the accepted people in life, but the ones with the humility to see in truth—for one, the frailty of humankind in comparison to God.
The Question of Judgment
Like there are myriad glimpses of faith, there are many different ways of seeing the Prodigal Son story of Luke 15:11-32 (verse 20 profiled above). One theme that is unmistakable, however, is the grace exemplified in the father who is just thrilled at the sight of his approaching once-wayward son.
Just about any well-adjusted mother or father understands this compassion. If Jesus commanded us to call his Father, “our Father,” how different to being a human-type father could God the Father be?
God, our Father, is not limited to any range that the normal father is, however.
Think about judgment. If our earthly father, more often than not, will judge us fairly, how much more fairly will God the Father judge us?
How could God judge us any harsher than we often judge ourselves? Or, for that matter, how could God judge us any harsher than others might judge us from time to time? No, is it probable that God is a fairer and kinder Judge than any of us can imagine?
The business of becoming a child—for the fortunate ones, to become a child again—is fundamental so far as a vibrant relationship as God is concerned. When will we allow God to be our Father? When will we willingly be his children?
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.