The format for services in God’s Church is very consistent, whether it is Sabbath services, holy day services or Feast of Tabernacles services. But on one special day during the Feast, the format changes a little. During that service, certain members of the audience stand and bring their little ones up to one of several ministers, who briefly pray over them. This short ceremony is called “the blessing of the little children.”
Why does God’s Church take up the time of hundreds of other members in the audience who don’t directly participate in this blessing? Why don’t we set aside a different time for this ceremony for the few parents, children and ministers who are directly involved? Why do we all witness the blessing of the little children?
Because it is important for all of us, when possible, to be part of this special ceremony.
How Jesus Christ Sees Children
Jesus Christ’s disciples asked Him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He called over a little child and set him or her right in the middle of their discussion and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-6).
Later, people brought their infants to Jesus, seeking His blessing on them. His disciples stopped them; they thought this was not an appropriate use of His time. They did not equate the mighty, spiritual, mature Kingdom of God to children. But Christ told His disciples not to hinder them (Luke 18:15-16). He said, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein” (verse 17).
The disciples were dedicated men, but at this point they were not converted men. Christ told them they had better turn from those thoughts and attitudes that overlooked or rebuked little children, or they would not even enter the Kingdom of God!
At the Feast of Tabernacles, Christ teaches us to take on a certain attitude, the attitude of children! He shows us that the Kingdom is going to consist of those who have a childlike attitude and demeanor.
What does Christ mean? Is He saying we need to simply be childlike to enter the Kingdom? 2 Corinthians 11:3 tells us about “the simplicity that is in Christ.” One Bible translator put it well when he said, “Let us be on guard against the common human tendency to elaborate a simple issue,” and, “I do not claim that Christianity is easy, but I do claim that it is not complicated.”
Jesus used many powerful analogies to describe God’s people: salt, light, sheep, a city on a hill—and children. Of course, we are not literally salt or light or sheep. But God literally is our Father! And we literally are His children!
Jesus Christ truly and simply meant that God’s Kingdom will consist of those who have a childlike attitude!
Christ, the Head of the Church of God, led His servant Herbert W. Armstrong to restore to His Church a ceremony that specifically illustrates this teaching.
How to Become a Child
We want to enter the Kingdom of God. Christ told us how to do so: Become as a little child. How do we do that?
Several times the Bible describes Jesus Christ as “the firstborn.” Christ is the firstborn in God’s Family, God’s Kingdom. Along with the Father, at this point He is the Kingdom!
Philippians 2:6-8 show us that Jesus Christ was the Word who lived for eternity. He then “made himself of no reputation,” and “emptied himself” of His divine glory and power, the Revised Standard Version says.
John 5:26 says, “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” These verses tell us that the life and the Spirit in Jesus Christ, the human, came from the Father. “The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works,” Christ said (John 14:10).
Mr. Armstrong wrote in What Is Faith?, “Few realize that what He did—the miracles He performed—He did not do by any supernatural power of His own. Everything He did, every miracle He performed, was done literally through faith, setting us a beautiful example.”
Christians have been given the power of God’s Holy Spirit. We are now begotten sons. We live the same way Jesus Christ did: as limited, physical human beings empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. As a human being, Jesus lived like a small child—totally relying on His Father!
If you are a parent, this will be familiar to you: It is morning, and you are lying in bed. You hear the shuffling of little feet coming down the hall. You know exactly what that sound means: Your child has just awoken. The door is about to slowly open, and your little one will be there, rubbing sleepy eyes with tiny fists and coming to jump into bed with you and your spouse.
Why do children do this? Because little children want to connect with their parents. In fact, it’s the very first thing they want to do in the morning. They need that connection.
Christ did marvelous wonders as a human being. Entire populations clamored to see Him (Mark 1:28-45). Surely you have been very busy before, but have you ever been this busy? Have you ever been this beset by tiring, even exhausting, demands?
Yet notice verse 35: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” God recorded that not only did Christ seek out His Father well before dawn, He did so even when He was extremely busy!
Jesus was childlike! He needed to come close to His Father first thing!
Do we crave this connection with our Father
first thing in the morning? Or are we too grown up for that? Is it our desire, like a little child desires it; or is it a troublesome duty we are comfortable skipping now and again?
Your little child is not coming to you in the morning out of duty! It is his desire to do that! Christ’s desire was to do that. And unless we become like little children, we will not enter the Kingdom of God.
Beseech God for this desire to come into God’s presence early each morning. We don’t naturally have that. We naturally have carnal enmity against that.
There is no substitute for time spent with your Father in earnest prayer and Bible study. If you don’t feel close to God, He is not the one who has drifted away! The wonderful thing about this is: He is always there, waiting to hear your footsteps in the hallway, so to speak.
What else do little children do? After making contact with dad and mom first thing in the morning, they like to come not just into the bedroom and not just into the bed, but into the bed between dad and mom. Children like to stand close to you. They like you to sit on the floor and play with them and read to them. They like you to hold them. They like to sit right next to you, or sometimes on top of you—even when there is another six feet of couch space to sit on!
Yet when many a boy grows up to be 30 years old, he doesn’t hug his father, and his father doesn’t hug him. He’s fine with that; he’s a man after all, not a child—right? He does not want to show weakness even if he desires or needs intimate contact with his father.
What was the 30-year-old Jesus Christ like? One of the men who was with Him saw something about Him regarding His relationship with His Father. This man spent a lot of time with Christ and was close to Him, and he wrote that He was “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18). Thayer’s Lexicon says the bosom is the front of the body, between the arms, and that this verse shows Christ having the closest and most intimate relationship with the Father.
The Father was not even physically present, yet John saw in this 30-year-old man the personification of being in the arms of His Father! His attitude caused John to visualize Him with His head on His Father’s chest, His Father’s arms wrapped around Him.
Do we desire that intimacy, that dependency, that childlike attitude? Or have we “matured” out of that?
When did you have the most faith in your parents? Was it as an adult, as a teenager—or as a child? When you were a child, you were always snuggling up close to your parents, on the couch, sitting on the floor, being held, crawling up into their bed. And you also believed what your parents told you, without a doubt! The younger you were, the more trust you had in what they told you.
What about when you were a teenager? The contact, the closeness and the intimacy are not as great then. You are not as close to them, nor as often. And when they tell you something, there’s doubt.
Perhaps you even apply ulterior motives to what they tell you. “Do not keep hanging around that person, or he will lead you into trouble,” they say. Dad and mom just don’t want me to have fun! you think. You don’t think they are warning you for your own good, like they did when you wanted to walk down the driveway into the road. Even if they tell you that’s exactly what they are doing, you just don’t believe them.
As He grew up, Jesus Christ never lost His closeness with the Father, never lost contact, and never lost trust. He stayed close to His Father, and therefore He knew His Father would answer His requests. He remained His Father’s trusting Son. Of such is the Kingdom of God.
For his book My Father, My Son, author Lee Salk interviewed scores of young men about their relationships with their fathers. Not one complained that his father demonstrated too much affection. Not one said, “My father was too demonstrative, but I won’t be that way with my son; I don’t want to be that way with my son,” or, “My dad hugged me often, and I’ll never do that with my son.”
As teens and young adults, we often initiate separation from our parents. But even on a physical level we come to realize that is not what we want or need. A childlike attitude desires and needs to be in the bosom of the Father.
At the end of His physical life, Christ once again prayed passionately to His Father. This is the only time where Jesus Christ’s actual words in prayer are recorded. The ones nearby were sleeping, so Christ must have related His words to them, or they knew from hearing Him many times before that this is how He began His prayer. They knew what Christ called His Father: “Abba, Father.”
“‘Abba’ is the word framed by the lips of infants,” Vines Expository Dictionary of the New Testament notes, “and indicates unreasoning trust; ‘father’ expresses an intelligent [understanding] of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of a child.”
The equivalent of “Abba” in our culture would be “Daddy.” Wouldn’t the expression “Daddy, Father,” express the love and confidence of a child today? Do you pray to God as if He is a distant executive or government administrator, or is Christ’s attitude the type of approach you take in prayer? “Daddy, Father, please help me through this struggle.” “Daddy, Father, will you please bless this person?” “Daddy, Father, thank you for helping me overcome my problem.”
“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” In other words, Paul wrote in Galatians 4:6: Because you have been begotten, Christ living in you through the Holy Spirit should lead you to cry out, “Daddy, Father!” God repeats this in Romans 8:15-16: “[Y]e have received the Spirit of [sonship], whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
A man once told of how his daughter stepped into his study. He was involved in other things, and he looked up and asked her, “What can I do for you?” He said he realized by her response that he was treating her like a client, someone to fix something for. Perhaps you experienced that as a child, and you view yourself as only a client to your executive God. When you pray, you are only keeping an appointment with this omniscient authority who is always watching your every sin and to whom you only present a list of requests.
When her father asked this little girl, “What can I do for you?” she replied timidly, “Nothing, I just want to be where you are.”
This is the wonderful childlike attitude our Father wants to see in us. Of such is the Kingdom of God!
God is our Daddy Father. He is omniscient, but not for the purpose of making a grease spot out of us. He is omniscient to be constantly, consistently, completely reliable—to be there for you. He is always the perfect, almighty, sinless, omniscient Father, yes. And He is also always your Daddy.
“One of the most malignant elements in the father-son relationship is proximity without communication,” notes Lee Salk (op cit). Closeness needs to include communication. As God’s children, we must initiate it.
Driving a group of youth back from summer camp one year, I asked one of the girls why she loved horses. She mentioned a few aspects, then summed up her love of horses by saying, “Mostly, I like them because I get to spend more time with my dad.”
Do not lose that relationship with your father as you age. And with your heavenly “Daddy Father,” become like a little child. Jesus Christ did, and “of such is the Kingdom of God.”
Have you ever noticed a child you have never seen before and said, “Oh, that’s a Johnson.” The child is the image of his parents. Maybe it is his features, or his speech, or his mannerisms; maybe it is all those things. Once at a family reunion I told my dad, “You can tell that one is a Nice; look at the way he is lying there.” It’s amazing how families share these traits.
Children imitate their parents in more than one way. The appearance, of course, comes from genetics. But the imitation of the parents’ qualities and actions comes from the mind, and it comes both intentionally and unintentionally.
Did Jesus Christ imitate His Father in qualities, in actions, even in what you could call mannerisms? John 14:7-9 record Him saying, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (rsv). Christ imitated the Father! He modeled Himself after the Father! And God tells us to do the same in Ephesians 5:1: “As children copy their fathers, you as God’s children, are to copy him” (Phillips translation).
If we model ourselves after our Father, when Christ appears, “we shall be like him,” because He modeled Himself after the Father (1 John 3:1-2).
It’s easy for a dad to be a dad to a young child. The child desires intimacy, sees himself as a little child and realizes he does not know how to come in or go out. The child wants to sit on his father’s lap, to be tucked in at night, to be read to and hugged and kissed good night. He is trusting: He wants closeness and communication. He even wants to imitate his dad.
Being the dad can be a great deal of pleasure because the son or daughter is willing to be parented, willing to be a little child.
But what happens if that child’s attitude changes? Perhaps he gets older and he stops the closeness, the communication, the trust, the imitation. It is much more difficult for the father to be a dad, isn’t it? He can only be a parent to the degree that the child remains a child.
Can you truly, fully be a dad or a mom if your child doesn’t want to be a child? We have to want, constantly desire, to be the child so God can be our Father. That is how a Kingdom of God is made possible, when the inhabitants want to have a Father-son relationship with God. We as the children determine the relationship; God can’t force it on us.
God absolutely wants us to mature, to tackle the problems of life, to develop competence and skills. But He still wants to be our Father. And the more we truly mature, the more childlike we will become.
I had a friend in Indiana who I worked with on occasion and who was an excellent carpenter. His brother in California knew his skill and offered him a great deal of money to travel there for up to three months to help finish his new house.
My friend took the job and headed west, leaving his wife and daughter at home until he could return. Nearing California, he received a call. It was his 8-year-old daughter, reporting that his wife, who had been losing her hearing, was now completely deaf. My friend could not turn back. They had no extended family in Indiana, and those were the days before texting, so he had to tell his daughter the things she would have to do to get the family through that period.
As he was listing his instructions, his daughter eventually interrupted and said in a frightened tone, “Daddy, I can’t do this; I am only a child!”
To a little child, the world is a huge, unknown, somewhat frightening place. They know they need their parents to guide them through it. A little child fits the Thayer’s definition of “humble”: “To have a modest opinion of one’s self; to behave in an unassuming manner devoid of all haughtiness.”
The little one thinks, I am only a child—thinks, I can’t do it, but my dad can—and even thinks, Dad says I can do it, so I can do it.
“[T]he Father hath not left me alone,” Christ said, “for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). And His Father said about His Son, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Christ’s humble, childlike desire was to please His Father!
“As we submit in that way,” Gerald Flurry wrote in John’s Gospel: The Love of God, “the Father comes alive, and we know we’re sons of God. What a blessing it is to bring the Father alive! … We must bring the Father alive, because the whole Family of God concept revolves around the Father!”
In Isaiah 66:2, God says, “[T]o this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” God looks to him who has humility, to him who will let Him be his Father!
Childlike humility is key to having a close parent-child, Father-son relationship. Jesus Christ warned His disciples to change their whole outlook and to become like little children, or they would never enter the Kingdom of God. And He lived His own life with the close, connected, communicating, trusting, imitating, humble attitude of a little child.
When He was here on Earth, Jesus Christ picked up a small child and said, “Of such is the kingdom of God.” Today, Jesus Christ inhabits the Kingdom of God. Christ, the others who will inhabit the Kingdom of God, and little children all have these traits in common. They embrace being the child in the Father-child relationship. They rise early to connect and communicate with their Father. They desire constant closeness with their Father. They desire intimacy in the bosom of their Abba, Father. They imitate and model themselves after their Father. They have humility toward their Father, and they desire to please their Father.
This is the simplicity that is in Jesus Christ. Become like little children, “for of such is the kingdom of God.”