“…And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” (Isaiah 2:2,3)
In the prophet Isaiah’s depiction of the final Kingdom, people are drawn to go there. Not by force or coercion, but a desire that compels forward-moving action.
I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise because many people had the same experience with Jesus. There was something about Jesus that inextricably drew people—from the religious leaders that were angry with him to people who you might think that it would be in their best interest to run away.
It’s easy to forget this when we Christians and churches become so focused on behavior modification, appearances, or legislating a religious morality that has little to do with inner-transformation. Sometimes it seems that we feel we need to manipulate or trick people into the Kingdom: (“No, really, it’s not so bad. And you get eternal life in the bargain!)
For months we have been going to another nearby village to pick up people for church. Lately, the adults have not been coming, but the kids still clamor to come. In a car stuffed with kids ages 3-10, my coworker was surprised to find that they wanted to pray on the way to church: For a father to not go to jail, for another father to have strength in jail and then change his lifestyle when he came out. And the list went on…
These kids can cause disruption in the church—they can be loud, often unruly, and sometimes other members grumble at their ‘lack of culture.’ Yesterday, during the singing, they were loudly goofing around in the front row while I was trying to lead the music.
But I hope we are not a church that would put ‘good behavior’ over encouraging these children who are being drawn to God. Thankfully, during the service, the pastor quoted Jesus’ admonishment to his disciples to “Let the children come to me” (As maybe a subtle reminder to the rest of the congregation).
“Let the children come…” Jesus knew that children would want to be near him—his unconditional love, his gentleness, and kindness. I have a feeling that more children would have been drawn to Jesus than adults—but unfortunately the gospels’ accounts rarely mention children.
Last week, as the kids were going out the door to go home, I put my hand on the shoulder of the oldest. He turned to me, startled, and I could see that he expected to be reprimanded.
“Come again!” I said in a stern voice, and then smiled. His whole face lit up in delight, basking in the feeling of being wanted in a space other than just his home.
I drove them back to their village after church, and they insisted on singing worship songs the whole way back. Off-key and with wrong words, they belted them out.
Perhaps for some people, an inaccurate picture of God results in fear, disgust, anger, and a general resistance about moving toward God. That is why it is so significant to study people’s responses when they encountered Jesus.
How do we maintain a community of welcome and compassion? A church where people will say, “Let us go there, that we might learn about God and walk in His paths?”
Perhaps by being willing to constantly have our understanding of God challenged, refined, sharpened, and expanded.