People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
You may have heard this story before, but what does it mean? Most often I’ve heard it reduced to a sentimental tale to reassure children of the Daddiness of God and warm the hearts of their mothers and fathers. God loves all children, yours included, even after the struggle to get them dressed for church. Or to challenge intellectuals that we can be justified by faith even without a well honed theology of justification by faith. You don’t need a college degree to be saved. I’ve even heard Buddhists relate the saying to their own teaching, comparing the closed, “expert’s mind” with the open, “beginner’s mind”.
All of which is true. But I don’t think that is what Jesus had foremost in mind when he said we should be like children, if we sought to be in, not out. In his culture the status of children was somewhat different to ours. And the action of placing his hands on their head carried far weightier, counter-cultural implications.