There are not many things as needing of care and sustenance as are newborns. Many young birds epitomize the condition of helplessness: blind, naked and completely dependent. These are characterized by biologists as altricial young. They are utterly incapable of caring for themselves and rest solely on the nurturing of their parents.
This helpless condition is not one that we find attractive or desirable for ourselves. We may have nurturing instincts toward another who is helpless; but helplessness is hardly an ideal we embrace for ourselves. In fact, we exalt the value of growth. Physical, mental and spiritual maturation are prime goals for us all.
But it was the Lord himself who said, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) There are two aspects to this childishness that we especially ought to embrace: our attitude towards God and our own incompetence.
Attitude towards God
Man's (the created's) proper attitude toward God (the Creator) is one of adulation and humility. A little child is always in awe of the adult. The adult occupies a realm beyond the ken of childhood. Just so, the Lord declares,
"My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
It was with chagrin and deliverance that Job learned this
vital lesson. The Lord answered Job's plaintive self pity with a
very long, probing and poetic question: "Who is this that darkens
my counsel with words without knowledge? . . ." (Job 38:1-41:34)
Then Job confesses, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand." (Job
42:3) When Job humbled himself as a little child, it was possible
for the Lord to bless "the latter part of Job's life more than the first."
(Job 42:12) As James noted: "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and
he will lift you up." (James 4:10) Jesus said that "whoever humbles
himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew
An adult has many opportunities and responsibilities that never devolve upon a child. In legal terms, a child is classed as "incompetent". This means that we as a society recognize that they lack certain capacities. We too, as children, lack important capacities. For example, who is adequate to accept or reject the gospel message? The scripture reminds us that:
"No eye has seen
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared
for those who love him."(1 Corinthians 2:9)
Though we, like little children, look forward earnestly to these things, we have no adequate conception of what they are. How can we be so bold and proud that we have competently accepted them.
Asking mankind to make an eternal decision based on a careful consideration of the gospel evidence is like asking an eight year old boy to make a lifelong decision to accept or reject sex, something he is scarcely competent to appreciate, though it be explained to him ever so carefully.
Humility and excitement, my friend, these are the keys. Humility in accepting our status as children and excitement over the choices our loving Father has made for us in the person of our Lord, Jesus. Remember, Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you." (John 15:16)
So much for the haughtiness that damns others for "rejecting Christ". Such arrogance, to imagine that we have presented the Savior clearly and convincingly, adequate for judgment. We rather accept the position of the altricial bird and confess that we too are "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17) We reject the attitude of the Pharisees who asked, "What? Are we blind too? Jesus said, 'If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.'" (John 9:34) But perhaps in the end God will deal with "blindness" as he dealt with the people of Nineveh in the days of Jonah.
This issue of The Good Word deals with an issue that has tremendous ramifications for our theological paradigm. If you and I can agree on the concept presented (personal incompetence) then we are likely to find our way to harmony on many other gospel issues.
But someone is almost certain to raise the issue of Christian maturity. Aren't we urged forward to maturity? (Hebrews 6:1) Isn't this a call to avoid childishness, at least in our religion? (1 Corinthians 13:11) To put the matter in perspective we should consider brother Paul's more detailed treatment:
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature take such a view of things."(Philippians 3:12:15)
Clearly, Christian maturity is not inconsistent with humble acknowledgment of a lack of Christian attainment. In fact, the apostle assures us that this is the norm for the mature in the here and now. We confess ourselves to be children before the Lord.
the giftie gie us
To see oursels
as others see us!