Unless We Change: Children Lead the Way to Peace | Sojourners

Unless We Change: Children Lead the Way to Peace

Unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom heaven. (Matt. 18:3)

Jesus spoke these words as a response to a question from his disciples. Which of us, they demanded to know, was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus must have been struck by the contrast between his rivalrous disciples, so-called friends bickering and vying for attention, and the children who were playing nearby. He could have said, “I am, you silly gooses! Don’t compete with me – follow me!” But he had tried words before to no avail. So he summoned the children to show that greatness in the kingdom means playing joyfully in the moment with a humility that is heedless of rank or position. Only such as these, he explained, are able to know me and follow me.

Unless you change, he said. Unless you become like children.

When my son, Don, was about three and half, I enrolled him in a weekly toddler gym class that met once a week. He seemed to enjoy the bouncing and running and playing games. One week I was running late, why I can’t remember. Probably some combination of having dropped off his older sister at preschool and then trying to squeeze laundry or some shopping errand and still get to his gym class on time. I remember racing through the house and stuffing things in his diaper bag hoping he would help me by putting on his shoes. “Where are your shoes, Donny? Can you put them on for me?” I asked him probably three or six or 20 times.

But Donny didn’t seem to be gripped by the same urgency. He stood quietly in the kitchen, a toddler eye in my adult storm, until finally I nearly shouted in exasperation, “Don! Don’t you want to go to your gym class?” His answer shocked me into stillness. “Not if I have to rush,” he said. I instantly knew he was right so I dropped the diaper bag and the search for his shoes and followed him to the front porch where we sat on the glider and watched a thunderstorm roll in from the west. I have rarely spent such a peaceful, joyful hour.

Unless you change, he said. Unless you become like children.

We think that it is children who bicker and demand attention, but maybe it’s us. We think that we are the ones with wisdom to pass on to our children, but maybe they are the wise ones. Perhaps it’s time to learn to follow Jesus by being led by children.

In an address in 1937, in the pregnant pause between the great wars of the 20th century, Dr. Maria Montessori said this:

If the era in the history of human evolution that is characterized by the constant outbreak of war can be called the ‘adult period’, then the period in which we begin to build peace will be the ‘age of the child.’

Unless we change, he said. Montessori believed with Jesus that the children would lead us into a new age, a time for healing when nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Are we humble enough to be led by children into the kingdom of heaven? Today is a good day to begin to practice being led by the wisest among us. Slow down. Play. If you are lucky enough to have children in your life, try to see yourself through their eyes. You will be surprised to discover just how much you are loved, just as you are, and that the new age may have already begun, set in motion by the gaze of a child.

Suzanne Ross blogs at the Raven Foundation, where she uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, and pop culture. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @SuzanneRossRF.

Image:  / Shutterstock.com

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