Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 18:2-3 NLT
“What if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus? Do they still go to heaven?” asked my eleven-year-old granddaughter, as we walked to the car following the Easter Sunday service. I remained quiet and listened as my daughter did her best to explain.
The Scripture passage in Matthew reflects an incident when the Disciples were having a conversation and asked Jesus, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” Matthew 18:1. Being keenly aware of the human condition, pride, which prompted their question, Jesus gave them a visual answer by showing them a child. Children, both then and now, have been viewed as immature and lacking the depth of wisdom. How could a child reveal any substance to their discussion? Children were easily dismissed. But, not by Jesus.
What was Jesus trying to show His Disciples by calling their attention to the young child? What could these men possibly learn from this example? Maybe He wanted to point out the beauty of what it is like to be a child. Being childlike is very different than being childish. While being “childish” conjures up a picture of temper tantrums, whining or such as wanting to be considered first, to be “childlike” is to be unguarded, curious and trusting. My granddaughter asked a childlike question. “What if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus? Do they still go to heaven?” Vying for a prominent position, the Disciples asked a childish question, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?”
I love how children do not beat around the bush or get too caught up with appearances when looking for answers to some pretty tough questions. They speak what most adults may think but have been conditioned to avoid saying out loud. Why is this? As an adult, I can attest that no one wants to sound or look foolish or to seem narrow minded. Children don’t want to be embarrassed either, but somehow they understand it’s okay not to have all of the answers. Scripture is very clear by showing that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NLT. While this statement leaves no wiggle room for other options for how to get to heaven, what makes it so difficult for us to answer such a poignant question as the one made by my precious granddaughter is, as her mother wisely explained, “God Alone knows each of our hearts. Only He can make that judgement.”
God loves a heart that is vulnerable enough to questions. Isn’t asking questions the same thing as seeking knowledge? “I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.” Proverbs 8:17 NLT. You and I do not have to know it all to touch the heart of God. We simply need to keep the line of communication open. So, what would you like to ask God? He’s listening.
“What if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus? Do they still go to heaven?” Let’s ask God to show us how to pray for others so they have the desire to know what Jesus says is “truth.”