What must I do to be saved?
That question has typically been answered in a very linear fashion. Line up these give points a draw a line from lost to saved. Bingo…you’re in! But what if there is more to salvation than that? What if God had something very different in mind when he talked about people entering the kingdom than boiling down the Gospel to a five step plan? What if I told you Jesus said that there was something that if you didn’t do, you could never experience eternal life with God in the kingdom that wasn’t on the five step list?
That would be a big deal, wouldn’t it?
What must I do to be saved?
“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. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” – Matt 18:1-5
Jesus didn’t tell us to be childish in the way we treat each other. There is enough of that to go around. Jesus told us to become like the children to enter the kingdom of heaven.
What does it mean to change and become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven?
First, change implies that we aren’t there to begin with. That means this isn’t going to come naturally to us and yet it can be done. It isn’t a single, solitary, isolated step. This is going to be a process. We are going to have to purposefully make some changes in order to make this happen. Second, Jesus clarifies what he means in the next sentence when he says he is talking about taking on a lowly position.
If we think we are great, we aren’t there. If we think we have made it, we aren’t there. If we treat people with disrespect, we aren’t there. If we beat people up emotionally, spiritually or even physically…we aren’t there either.
If we love unconditionally, we are making the change. If we live life with an innocence that doesn’t know how to fight dirty or be out for blood on the theological threshing floor, we are getting closer. If we don’t expect to get picked for the team, we might be closer than we think.
Changing to be like a child doesn’t come naturally to us as adults. It only comes naturally to us as children. Then we learn to protect ouselves, our interests, our property, and our ego and our innocence is lost. Once we learn to exert our will on others, our childlike demeanor begins to fade.
All is not lost, we can go back. It won’t be easy and it will go against everything this world teaches us to think and do but we can with Jesus’ help.
In the very next chapter we get a similar scene with a similar message,
“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked 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.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” – Matthew 19:13-15
Those who have free access to Jesus are those who are like the children. They don’t come to Jesus for his blood. They come to Jesus to be with Him.
This should characterize the lives of believers…this child-like innocence should be a part of our outlook on life. It is a trusting way of living that is always looking to someone else to take care of what we cannot take care of for ourselves. I don’t mean to live an entitled life where someone is always doing things for you. I mean recognizing our own inability to perform up to the perfect standards that we often require of ourselves and know that our daddy still loves and accepts us just the way we are. I mean knowing that we might not be the most beautiful in the eyes of the world but we are beautiful to Him. I mean the excitement a child has when they know their parent has come home from a long day at work and they run to the door to hug them and just