FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.The fourth universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to ENCOURAGE THE YOUTH OF OUR WORLD. As usual Jesus not only teaches transformational principles, but He practices what He teaches. Jesus is the teaching! Jesus was around 30 years old, when he launched the movement and he launched it with a group of teenagers. His early followers were just teens with one exception, Peter, who was probably in his early twenties.
Jesus placed a high value on youth-children-and if we're going to do our best to follow Him, then we must also value children in the same way. There are, at least, four dimensions to the way Jesus values children.
FIRST-Jesus made it clear that no one will enter the Kingdom of heaven unless he becomes like a little child. Matthew reports that Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) Mark also reports that Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:15) Luke repeats Jesus' words from Mark: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Note that each of the Gospels were in agreement on this and verifies Jesus' thinking about children.
SECOND-Jesus even told an older, Jewish scholar by the name of Nicodemus that he needed to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. He says in John 3:5: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." He goes on to say: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." I believe Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that as a highly educated adult he was unable to enter the Kingdom, unless he became like a little child all over again-to be born again. Nicodemus knew too much that had become like blinders so he was unable to see clearly and freshly as a little child.
THIRD-Jesus valued children so much that he used them as an illustration for those who are the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Matthew records an interesting scene around the question, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?" At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child, whom he placed among them. And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes a humble place-becoming like this child-is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:1-4)
FOURTH-Jesus identifies Himself personally with the children. Matthew continues with: "And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me-to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:5-6) Note that if you receive a child in the name of Jesus, it's the same as welcoming Jesus Himself. And, then notice the warning to those who dare to cause a little child to stumble or go away from the things of Jesus. It's a serious thing to hurt a child in any way.
So, what is it about a child that is so important? Why is there such an emphasis in Jesus' teachings on valuing children? There are a lot of reasons that come to mind for me.
As a child, you know you don't know everything. You're open to learning; you're like wet cement. It's important to watch Jesus carefully and mimic what you see and hear.
As a child you want to learn all you can about this new life of following Jesus. Children just naturally imitate those who are important to them.
To be a child you may have to unlearn a lot of things so that you can relearn what Jesus wants you to know. You must be open and honest; there's a certain degree of innocence about being child-like. There's also a natural desire to depend upon and trust Jesus.
To be a child you will have to relearn the ABC's all over again. This time the ABC's are the building blocks of following Jesus.
To be a child you will have to relearn the simplicity of following Jesus. A child sees things simply and purely. This is the concern that Paul expressed for the followers of Jesus who were gathering in Corinth. He said: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (II Corinthians 11:3)
So, always be careful to encourage the youth-the children-in our world and begin with the little child in you.