LIKE A NEWCOMER

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. [Mark 10:14b-16 (NLT)]

clam pass boardwalkWhen we moved to southwest Florida a few years ago, everything was new and strange—we didn’t know which church to attend, who had the best produce, what activities were offered, where to shop or hike or bike, or how to get wherever it was we needed to go. Rather than be confused and discouraged, we got out the guidebooks and maps and enthusiastically started exploring—churches, parks, theaters, markets, beaches, and museums. Every day became an adventure and, as we got to know our community, we came to love it.

I’m amazed at the number of people we meet who’ve lived here for decades or more who still haven’t been to the Conservancy, zoo, or free band concerts in the park. They’ve never visited the county museum or any of the farmer’s markets. Not once have they walked the boardwalk through the mangroves to the beach, visited the nearby state parks, wandered the old town alleys, toured the bird sanctuary or hiked any of the land trust trails. They’ve never stepped into the art museums or the Botanical Gardens nor have they attended free lectures at the library, strolled along the river or seen the giant gingerbread house at the Ritz. Many old-time residents take the local attractions for granted and don’t see the beauty and opportunities right in front of them.

It’s not just our surroundings about which we can get jaded; it can also be our faith. While new believers are usually enthusiastic about prayer and Bible study and excited about getting to know Jesus, old believers may get blasé and lax in exercising their faith. Our Bible study can get humdrum, prayer time repetitive, meditation wearisome, and worship unexciting. Familiarity may not breed contempt but it can breed boredom. Jesus, however, is anything but unexciting or dreary.

I’ve encouraged my neighbors to look at our town with the fresh eyes of a tourist or newcomer. Perhaps we should do the same with our faith and look at Jesus with the heart and mind of a new believer. Could that be what receiving the Kingdom of God “like a child” means—coming to Jesus with the unbridled enthusiasm of a newcomer? Children, like newcomers to town, are fully aware of how little they actually know. Inquisitive and eager to expand their knowledge, they want to discover all there is to know.

I doubt the disciples, when asked about their day, responded with a bored, “Same old, same old—a few miracles, several healings and some parables.” They were eager to learn more about Jesus and every day was an adventure in faith. If our faith has become lackluster, it’s not God’s fault. We’ve just become oblivious to his presence, blind to his works, and deaf to his voice. If our faith has become monotonous, it’s time to open our hearts and minds, renew our acquaintance with Jesus, and experience His glory as a child or a new believer would. My indifferent neighbors have missed experiencing much of what our community has to offer. We wouldn’t want boredom or indifference to cause us to miss experiencing all that Jesus offers: direction, strength, peace, joy, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, salvation, an abundant life today and an eternal life tomorrow.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. [Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)]