A minister was walking down the street when he came upon a group of children who had surrounded a small dog. Concerned that the children were hurting the dog, he went over and asked “What are you doing with that dog kids?” One of the kids replied, “This dog is just an old neighborhood stray. We all want him, but only one of us can take him home. So we’ve decided that whichever one of us can tell the biggest lie will get to keep the dog.” Of course, the reverend was taken aback. “You children shouldn’t be telling lies!” he exclaimed and with that he launched into a 10 minute sermon against lying, beginning, “Don’t you children know it’s a sin to lie,” and ending with, “Why, when I was your age, I never told a lie.” There was dead silence for about a minute. Just as the reverend was beginning to think he’d gotten through to them, the smallest child gave a deep sigh and said, “All right everybody, give him the dog.”
Even ministers, who live in the mind, can never be innocent – and only in innocence does the Divine descend into us, or we can ascend to the God. This message is one of the deepest sayings of Jesus, and one of the most basic that must be understood if we are to follow Him. We have heard this saying many times. Jesus says, in Matthew 18: 3, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Again he says in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In Luke 18: 15-17, “People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
What does Jesus mean? Not only is this a hard saying to understand, it is even harder to do. If we continue to live in our head we can never be innocent enough to be born again. We will never be virgin enough for God to descend into us and for us to ascend to God. Innocence is the door to the Divine and our mind is the barrier. Our mind as such is cunning, calculating and clever. It is because of this cleverness that we miss God. Many of us think we are being saved but we never have really given ourselves to Christ completely and totally, and unless we do, we will miss the Kingdom of Heaven.
Many of us have obtained the kingdom of this world through our mind, energy and hard work. To become rich and successful in this world requires a certain amount of cunningness: the more cunning, the more successful; the more calculating, the more efficient in the ways of the world. But the ways of this world are not the ways of God. To fully find God we must be born again. To be born again we must return to our innocence. There are two ways to do that. First we return to our innocence through humility. Jesus says, “Whoever humbles himself like this child….”
What is the humility of a child? The humility of a child is found in the heart of the child, not the head. A child’s mind is undeveloped. All that exists is the heart. Have you noticed how naturally loving, trusting and giving an innocent child is? These are the ingredients required for God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. These attributes do not come from the mind. They cannot be learned, taught, transmitted or found. We are born with them and along the way we lose them; therefore, to find God again, we must be born again and return to the innocence of a child.
Second, to return to our innocence we must repent. To repent means to return to God; to return to God means to begin living in our heart and not our head. The heart IS the source of our being. Repentance means to renounce our former self. We call it sin. We must make a 360 degree turn. We must turn completely around and become who God intended us to be. The purpose of Jesus coming was to give us the opportunity to repent, turn around, return to God and become who God intended us to be. Repentance leads to rebirth and to be reborn is to return to the original loving, trust and giving person we once were. To return to our innocence is to understand who we are and whose we are. Dimly at first we see our being but through our rebirth, we see God face to face.