In my last post, I shared a few pictures of Tim playing ‘catch’ with his son Aaron. That post was a reminder of the total trust we must have in God our Father. Sounds simple enough, but I began to wonder what the Bible had to say about such perfect faith. Once again, it turns out that pride can undermine our relationship with the Father.
The Simple Catholic Snapshots:
- God the Father Revealed Jesus as His Son and Redeemer
- Peter Trusted the Father’s Revelation
- Christ Established Peter as the Head of His Church
- The Apostles Struggled with Pride
- Pride can be a Great Obstacle to a Total Trust in God
- We Must be Humble Like Children to Enter the Kingdom of Heaven
The Simple Catholic Truth:
In the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples of Jesus were asking about their role in His future ministry (Mt 18:1-4)
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Look how Jesus answers the apostles’ question. He doesn’t just spell it out and give them the answer, he responds in such a way as to make them think. Yes, faith is a complete gift from God but it also involves our intellect and an act of will. Pointing to a single child, Jesus tells them that unless we become like children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. What possibly was Jesus trying to suggest – that we all become children? That we act like children? Of course not! He was simply suggesting that children have a unique characteristic that we too must have in order to go to heaven. We’ll get back to that in just a minute.
Recall that earlier in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks His disciples who they thought He (Jesus) was:
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Mt 16: 13-20)
Note that Peter doesn’t just say that Jesus is the Christ. Yes, as a Jew familiar with the OT Scriptures, Peter was expecting a Messiah and Jesus fit the bill in that regard. However, Peter goes on to confirm his belief that Jesus was the Son of God. Pay careful attention to Jesus’ response: “for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” It is clear that only thru a trust in the revelation by the Father would Peter come to know that Jesus was the Son of God.
This is a critical point in that it leads Jesus to give Peter the keys to His earthly kingdom thus granting Peter the authority to bind and lose on earth in Jesus’ name. Peter’s idea of who and what Jesus is was not the result of his own reasoning and intellect, but rather in his faith and trust in the Father.
To further the point about responding to the revelation of God, let’s look again at chapter eleven of Matthew’s Gospel. Here Jesus is lamenting about the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida. In these cities, He had performed many mighty works but most citizens chose to be unresponsive to His ministry.
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; 26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Mt 11:25-27)
Here, Jesus contrasts the rejection by the ‘wise and understanding’ with the repentance and acceptance by ‘the babes’. In other words, to those who were like children, the truth of Jesus as the Son of God was revealed and accepted. The hearts and minds of those filled with pride were closed.
So now back to the children, and us, and our relationship with God.
When I watch my 1 and 2 year old grandkids, I observe many characteristics that I’m sure God does not want to see in me as an adult. Sometimes these kiddos act stubborn and defiant. They can appear selfish and lean towards emotional outbursts when dealing with life. But we have to keep in mind that to these kids the entire universe is new and mysterious and inviting. Without the tools of language and reason and experience, they explore their world with recklessness, experimentation, and trial and error. And I can tell you, it can be very trying indeed to keep them out of mischief. But that is exactly what they should be doing – that is exactly what they need to be doing in order to learn and grow.
But it’s not this type of childish behavior that our Lord is referring to when teaching his disciples about faith.
He is not telling us to act like children, our Lord is telling us to think like children in our matters of faith. In other words, Jesus is telling us, “have faith like a child.”
One final thought that is contained in Mt 18:3 above: “Unless you turn and become like children…” Jesus is telling us here that in order to be heading towards the kingdom of heaven, we must first turn away from something i.e. our prideful nature of sin. Turning away is another way of expressing repentance, so like the citizens of Chorazin and Bethsaida we must repent (to turn) and trust the Father.
As a child, I don’t understand electricity but I must not touch that electrical cord because the father says no.
Likewise, as an adult I might not understand sin but I must turn away simply because the Father says no.
That is the obedience of saving faith that makes us children of God.