Friday, March 23, 2007

being like children in mission

I was struck in my Bible reading this morning by Paul's description of himself and his fellow workers when they had come and were serving the Thessalonians with the gospel and their lives. He likened himself and those working with him as being like young children among them (1 Thessalonians 2:7). It can read "gentle" among you, my Greek New Testament categorizing the reading the TNIV adopts as "almost certain". There is one letter difference. Gentle among you is powerful as well. But I especially find the thought of being like young children among these new believers, intriguing. He also likens himself and his fellow workers to a nursing mother and a father dealing with his children.

Being like young children among them implies a kind of innocence and acceptance of another, taking them at face value and wanting to be their friend. This certainly involves listening and taking the other person seriously, really getting to know them as they are. And it would mean playing with them. It certainly does not mean childishness in the sense of being selfish and wanting my own way. I think too it means an awe and wonder with life. Young children are still fascinated with new discoveries and in our Father's world there are still plenty out there for us to find.

Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners. He didn't come to them with a long face and start a diatribe about how they were all going to hell in a handbasket. Instead he himself, I think, was like a young child among them, enjoying life and food and drink with them as he opened up his Father's world and kingdom to them. We're to follow his way, being like him in this. This is to become simply a part of who we are.

What thoughts come to your mind about this? How does being like young children relate to being in mission in this world?


Llama Momma said...

Great insight. Great questions.

Children bring an enthusiam to work that makes it almost unlike work. They are also completely dependent on another to meet their needs.

I think of my own five-year old boys, growing so fast I can hardly stand it. I can give them instructions now, and they follow them, but not too many instructions at once. We accomplish so much, one thing at a time. The family room can be covered with toys, nobody knows where to start cleaning up. So we begin with the tinker toys, next the legos, now the books, and so on. Before we know it, the room is clean.

God does this with me in so many different ways. And as long as I don't get distracted, we can accomplish so much together.

L.L. Barkat said...

I like how my children automatically reach for my hand. That's it, I want to be someone who reaches for the hands of others and of God.

Ted Gossard said...

Llama Momma, Thanks for sharing that. Childrens' enthusiasm and simplicity come through. And I think these are great points in how we're to approach others in this world as we live here in mission in following Jesus. And great point about avoiding distraction. So key for us.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Nice thought. Having a heart of partnership with each other is good. We are after all on the same ground before God. And we need to be those who from the heart receive others into our lives so we can bring them to Jesus. Thanks.

Charity Singleton said...

Another thing I love about children is their fantastic combination of honesty and acceptance. Once, when I had gained some weight after being on medication, my neice, then five, grabbed my face and said, "I just love your chubby cheeks, Aunt Char." She was right; they were chubby. (Though I promptly went on a diet after that.) But even though I wasn't fitting into any societal standards of beauty, my niece just loved me anyway.

I think Paul often had to play these two roles at the same time with the new believers. Pointing out their faults, yet loving them anyway.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, A wonderful thought and insight there. So much the way God see us in Christ and helps us. Honesty and acceptance. Thanks for sharing that.

Kim said...

On a more somber note (I hope not all of my posts are?): I think a connotation of vulnerability is implied too. Children are physically weak by comparison to their adult counterparts. They can be prey because they are vulnerable in this sense. They are mostly incapable of defending themselves. They are humble because they truly are defenseless.

I think Jesus did mean for us to follow Him in becoming vulnerable. When we sacrificially love, when we are humble, when we truly are incapable of striking back when hurt we emulate Him. If our "mission" is to represent Him in this world I think we need to prepare ourselves to be "wounded" for His sake.


Ted Gossard said...

Kim, An excellent point. Paul certainly lived that out. He was willing to be vulnerable to the point of risking his life for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Well put and important for us in this. Thanks.

andre said...


I once heard a pastor say something very similar to what Kim alluded to. Because in our modern culture, we are very children-centric, we attribute much of the positive qualities (innocence, purity, etc...) to children.

However, this pastor was saying that in biblical times, children were were weak , vulnerable, defenseless, the "least" in the pecking order of society. Hence, there is the kind of humility that comes with being least. When I re-read the text with that perspective, it makes sense, in that Paul was asserting that he came to Thessalonians as one of the weak and the least.

Ted Gossard said...

Andre, Thanks for sharing that. It makes great sense out of the text and what Paul is saying. And we can all in Jesus identify with that. As Paul says elsewhere in referring to Jesus being cricified in weakness, "We are weak in him." (and read on for the strength that comes from such weakness- 2 Corinthians).