Kingdom Height Restrictions
Most theme parks have height restrictions. Failure to consider how a child fits in a thrill ride can result in disaster. Of course, most children see these rules as an infringement on their fun. They think they are big enough. Well, while I believe in the wisdom of a height restriction, I also think children are bigger than we think.
Sometimes I hear people refer to children as “the church of tomorrow.” This is accurate if we are referring to the impact children will have in the kingdom when they reach adulthood. The investment we make in children will certainly make the future church stronger. For this reason, I understand the notion they are the “church of tomorrow.”
On the other hand, we must remember children who are “in Christ” are the “church of today.” I am not talking about the grace I believe God extends to children who are not old enough to understand sin (the age of accountability). I am thinking, rather, of children who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, professed Him, and identified with Him in baptism.
Once a child commits his or her life to Jesus, they become my spiritual brother or sister. This doesn’t mean they must become adults in the way they think or act. That would be a travesty! But it does mean we are kingdom citizens together, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, and inhabited by the Holy Spirit.
This reality has a number of implications, but one in particular stands out to me: If children who have given their lives to Jesus have the Holy Spirit living in them, then they are already being transformed from the inside out. And they don’t have a “kiddie spirit!” The same Holy Spirit Jesus promised to His disciples in the Upper Room inhabits them. They are convicted, comforted, counseled, and marked by the Spirit.
It is true, sometimes we miss it. We lose sight of the Spirit in children when they race down the church hallway, hit their neighbor and snicker during people’s prayers. I should point out I have seen adults do all of these things, and worse, but I understand the perception. Because children are, well, childish, we can fail to take their faith seriously. But when we do this, we err greatly.
In fact, we not only err, but we lose out. When Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14), He was allowing children to speak to us. There are few things as pure as a child’s love for Jesus. It is untainted by ego and presumption. Children are still willing to be used by Jesus and have not yet learned how to use the name of Jesus to justify their personal whims.
So, should we recruit children to teach our adult classes and take on grown-up roles of spiritual leadership in the church? No. There is still great value in designing a ministry to children where children can learn to serve in a way that is age-appropriate.
But make no mistake. If children are in Christ, the Holy Spirit is as active in their lives as He is in ours. God is using them as powerfully as He is us. And on occasion, children lead us when they cut through our grown-up baggage and share God’s unedited truth.
Jesus is the height restrictor for children. Come to think of it, He is for all of us. None of us come to the kingdom except through Him. In spiritual terms, that’s when we all begin to grow up.