Child’s play and the Kingdom

dsc_00201-1Unless you become like a child, Jesus said, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and maybe part of what that means is that in the long run what is good about religion is playing the way a child plays at being grown up until he finds that being grown up is just another way of playing and thereby starts to grow up himself. Maybe what is good about religion is playing that the Kingdom will come, until—in the joy of your playing, the hope and rhythm and comradeship and poignance and mystery of it—you start to see that the playing is itself the first-fruits of the Kingdom’s coming and of God’s presence within us and among us.

–Frederick Buechner
Now and Then

Advertisements

The only punishable offence

ledger

Bookkeeping is the only punishable offence in the kingdom of heaven. For in that happy state, the books are ignored forever, and there is only the Book of life. And in that book, nothing stands against you.

There are no debit entries
that can keep you out of the clutches
of the Love that will not let you go.

bookeepingThere is no minimum balance below which the grace that finagles all accounts will cancel your credit. And there is, of course, no need for you to show large amounts of black ink, because the only Auditor before whom you must finally stand is the Lamb — and he has gone deaf, dumb, and blind on the cross. The last may be first and the first last, but that’s only for the fun of making the point: everybody is on the payout queue and everybody gets full pay. Nobody is kicked out who wasn’t already in, the only bruised backsides belong to those who insist on butting themselves into outer darkness.

For if our world
could have been saved
by bookkeeping,
it would have been saved
by Moses, not Jesus.

The law was just fine. And God gave it a good thousand years or so to see if anyone could pass a test like that. But nobody did — when it became perfectly clear that there was “no one who was righteous, no even one” (Rom. 3:10; Ps. 14:1-3), that “both Jews and Gentiles alike were under the power of sin (Rom. 3:9) — God gave up on salvation by the books. He cancelled everybody’s records in the death of Jesus and rewarded us all, equally and fully, with a new creation in the resurrection of the dead.

369_empty_tomb

And therefore the only adverse judgment that falls on the world falls on those who take their stand on a life God cannot use rather than on the death he can. Only the winners lose, because only the losers can win: the reconciliation simply cannot work out any other way . . . the kingdom of heaven is for everybody; hell is reserved only for the idiots who insist on keeping nonexistent records in their heads.

Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment
(emphasis added)

Eternal childhood

Perhaps this will be one of the supreme tests: would we choose the childlikeness of Heaven or the promise of “maturity”, of “humanity come of age” in Hell? Will we suffer gladly the blow and shock to our pride that is Heaven’s gift of eternal childhood (thus eternal hope and progress) or will we insist on the “successes” of “self-actualization” that Heaven denies us and Hell offers us? If the latter, we will find despair instead of hope, ennui [boredom] instead of creative work, and the emptying out of all our joy.

Jesus’ teaching, “Unless you turn
and become like children, you will
never enter the kingdom of Heaven”,
is not something to be outgrown.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, when asked which are the four most important virtues, replied, “Humility, humility, humility, and humility.”

–Peter Kreeft

Where’s the cookies?

In His reply to the disciples’ question about who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1), Jesus abolished any distinction between the elite and the ordinary in the Christian community. “He called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said,I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).

Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter as He sits the child on His knee. The child is unself-conscious, incapable of pretense. I am reminded of the night little John Dyer, three years old, knocked on our door flanked by his parents. I looked down and said, “Hi, John. I am delighted to see you.” He looked neither to the right nor left. His face was set like flint. He narrowed his eyes with the apocalyptic glint of an aimed gun. “Where’s the cookies?” he demanded.

The Kingdom belongs to people who aren’t trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves. They are not plotting how they can call attention to themselves, worrying about how their actions will be interpreted or wondering if they will get gold stars for their behaviour. Twenty centuries later, Jesus speaks pointedly to the preening ascetic trapped in the fatal narcissism of spiritual perfectionism, to those of us caught up in boasting about our victories in the vineyard, to those of us fretting and flapping about our human weakness and character defects.

The child doesn’t have to struggle
to get himself in a good position
for having a relationship with God…

He doesn’t have to craft ingenious way of explaining his position to Jesus; he doesn’t have to create a pretty face for himself; he doesn’t have to achieve any state of spiritual feeling or intellectual understanding. All he has to do is to happily accept the cookies: the gift of the Kingdom.

–Brennan Manning

Becoming like children

Jesus tells us . . . “Become like children.” Yet we know this is impossible. In the very effort of trying to become like children . . . we put our goal still farther out of reach. But it is precisely here, perhaps, that we come as near to the heart of the mystery as we are able.

It is just when we realize that it is impossible by
any effort of our own to make ourselves children
and thus to enter the kingdom of Heaven
that we become children.

We are children, perhaps, at the very moment when we know that it is as children that God loves us—not because we have deserved his love and not in spite of our undeserving, not because we try and not because we recognize the futility of our trying; but simply because he has chosen to love us . . . as children, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frederick Buechner

The coming Kingdom

Every kingdom work, whether public or private, partakes of the kingdom’s imperishable character. Every honest intention, every stumbling word of witness, every resistance of temptation, every repentance, every gesture of concern, every motion of worship, every struggle towards obedience, every mumbled prayer, everything, literally, which flows out of our faith-relationship with the Ever-Living One, will find its place in the ever-living heavenly order which will dawn at his coming.

–Bruce Milne

%d bloggers like this: