Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 105: Receiving the Kingdom of God “Like a Child”
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 105: Receiving the Kingdom of God “Like a Child”

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Jesus said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17) I see two features of children that make them more receptive to the kingdom of God. First, children are expected to obey their parents, and the kingdom of God requires that we follow the law of our Creator/Parent. Jesus taught that the first and greatest commandment was to love God, and the second is like it, to love our neighbor as ourselves. Adults, seeking independence from authority, resist God’s laws. Indeed, the Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly describe God’s anger when the Hebrews refused to obey the law to love God and chose idolatry instead.

A second way in which being like a child is necessary to receive the kingdom of God has to do with the nature of their desires. As anyone who has children knows, they are not totally “innocent.” They can be selfish and mean. However, children differ from adults in that children tend to be less complicated and less calculating about getting what they what, and less inclined to carry a grudge if they don’t get it. The last feature is important, from the perspective of mimetic theory. While children, like adults, care about self-esteem, in general their desires are more physical and less symbolic. A child seeing another child playing with a toy will often, on account of acquisitive mimetic desire, want to play with that toy. Failure to obtain that toy will disappoint the child, but the extent of unhappiness will be largely restricted to the frustrated immediate desire. Adults who fail to obtain their objects of desire tend to carry anger and bitterness far beyond the loss of immediate pleasure, because their failure often damages their self-esteem.

Adult desires to receive the kingdom of God often involve a desire to exclude other people, because doing so enhances one’s self-esteem. Consequently, for example, many people are as emphatic in their claim that they are “saved” as that those who do not share their theology and/or religious practices are condemned. For adults caught in the web of mimetic desires and rivalries, an attraction of the kingdom of God is that, in their view, it is a restricted place.

The disciples often argued among themselves about who was the greatest (Mark 9:34, Luke 9:46, 22:24). Jesus said, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:37) We need to regard each other as equals in the eyes of God in order to receive the kingdom of God. We need to regard people as the people God wants them to be, even when they fall short of God’s glory (as all of us do – Romans 3:23). How can this happen? I think we must see each of us as children of God. We are equally inferior to God, making us equal to each other in our relationship to God. Otherwise, when we define ourselves by how we relate to each other, we fall into mimetic rivalries that preclude our entering the kingdom of God. These mimetic rivalries made it impossible to live with God, just as these mimetic rivalries made it impossible for Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve fell into rivalry with God after the serpent tricked them into doubting God’s authority to set boundaries and God’s loving intentions for them.

I think that the various secular liberation movements that try to see all people as equal have two serious limitations. First, without a parent figure to truly equalize people, mimetic theory predicts that efforts to regard fellow people as equals will fail, because people will invariably fall into rivalries with each other. For example, it seems to me that the women’s liberation movement, the Black liberation movement, etc., while founded on admirable egalitarian principles, increasingly promote the interests of their own group over and against the interests of other groups. The Christian way to avoid losing focus from the core principles of love, compassion, mercy, and justice is for everyone to regard each other as equally beloved children of God.

A second failure of secular liberation movements is that they tend to ignore nonhumans, and the rights God created for them to have (including, but not limited to, the right not to be tortured). The difficulty of “drawing the line” prompts many people to choose to ignore all nonhuman beings. However, from the perspective of God the Creator, everyone matters. We must envision ourselves as children – children of God – in order to receive the kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God? I will offer my thoughts on this question next week.

Go on to: Part 106: The Kingdom of God
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