childish or childlike

I have been thinking some about what the difference is between being childish and being childlike. Jesus did tell his followers that we are to become like little children (Matthew 18:3), but I believe there are some misunderstandings among church-goers as to what it means to become like a child again.

Let me try to explain what I believe is the difference between having a childish faith and a childlike faith. The first is sad when you see that in an adult, the latter is what Jesus commended and something that brings life to the person and the people around this wonderful, childlike grown-up.

To be childish and to have a childish faith has to do with the self-centeredness that is typical of children. It’s all about them. Everything is interpreted through the grid of how it may or may not affect them. Children are excellent at remembering information, but terrible at interpreting it, because everything is filtered through a self-focused filter. A childish faith is one of give me this, give me that. It’s one of prayers that only center around what I deem to be important for me to have. A childish faith doesn’t grow, and it doesn’t attract other people to Christ. An adult that is caught in this childish, self-obsessed lifestyle doesn’t need to be encouraged to stay this way, and unfortunately I’ve seen that happen too many times, but, on the other hand, needs to be challenged to actually start growing up and start learning that the world doesn’t center around the individual. The childish believer needs to see that other people are important too, and that when you learn to rest in who you are in Christ, you also learn to give space for other people to learn and grow, and you don’t have to always be the center of everybody’s attention.

A childlike faith, and a childlike grown up, on the other hand, is something beautiful and life-giving. These people exhibit the beautiful characteristics of any healthy child: trust, love, passion, excitement, hope. These are the qualities that Jesus referred to when he told us to become like little children. A healthy child is at rest and filled with peace, even when things can be difficult, because the child knows instinctively that Daddy is in control and will take care of the child! That’s a picture of childlike faith. Though life may bring storms and problems, these people trust that Daddy is in control, that God knows best.

I am happy that I know some of these people with a childlike faith. Too many adults have lost their childlikeness, and either they’re just plain old childish, or cynicism has set in so any relationship with God is considered not worth while.

The childlike people bring hope, life, joy, and love to all of us. These people don’t attract the headlines in the media, but these are the people where the kingdom of God flow most naturally through. There is a sense of life and vitality that has the power to bring down even the most cynical and cold people.

Blessings, Torben

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