Do Not Hinder Them

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:16-17 (ESV) There are two places in the gospels where Jesus makes this statement. It is a powerful passage that tells us something about the nature of God’s kingdom and about the nature of childhood.

Every year, I look forward to the time when I get to bring my wooden model of Noah’s Ark to kindergarten. As I visit each class, I set the ark on the rug and we all gather in a circle. The teachers have strategically called me to visit at the very time they have taught the children to count by twos. But before we start counting, we pull out all the animals one by one, identifying them not by their names, but rather by the sounds they make. It’s a noisy activity, filled with hooting, howling, barking, and growling.

Soon the animals are all lined up – nineteen pairs plus Noah and Mrs. Noah at the front of the line. Then we count, “Two, four, six, eight” (all the way to thirty-eight, plus Noah and Mrs. Noah) “forty.” Then I ask the children, “So tell me, how many animals are there?” Since we just counted to forty, there is always a chorus of voices that answers, “Forty.” But almost without exception there is at least one dissenting voice saying, “No, there aren’t forty animals, there’s only thirty-eight.”

So, we count again, “Two, four, six, eight” (all the way to thirty-eight, plus Noah and Mrs. Noah) “forty.” I ask again, “How many animals are there.” By this point, opinions have begun to shift and there is a growing resistance movement contending that there are only thirty-eight animals because, “Noah and Mrs. Noah are not animals – they’re people.”

This always gives rise to a vigorous discussion about the difference between people and animals. After some debate about fur, speech, and walking on all fours, I’m amazed how often one or two kindergarten students announce to the class that, “God made people in His own image.” Whenever I hear a student say that, I ask, “What does it mean to be made in God’s image?” One little boy once answered, “God made us like Himself so we could know Him and worship Him.” What a profoundly simple yet complete answer.

This is the pivotal point of the lesson, and a central question for each of us personally and really, for our entire society. How do we know God made us in His likeness? Is it true? Does it matter? I tell our kindergarten students every year, “God made us like Himself, because He made us for Himself.” This is the first opportunity I have to communicate to our students how much God loves them, wants to know them, and wants to be their friend forever.

What does it mean to “receive the kingdom of God like a child”? Honestly, I’m not sure I fully understand all that it means, but I believe I do get to see what it looks like every day at our school. And it assures me of two things. One is that the faith of a child is far more powerful than we think. I am reminded of David’s enigmatic words in Psalm 8:

“Because of Your adversaries, You have established a stronghold from the mouths of children and nursing infants to silence the enemy and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2 (HCSB)

The second thing it tells me is that the best time to invest in faith and learning is in childhood, when the foundations for life are being laid.

I regularly say to our parents that my prayer for their children is simple – that they will see Jesus every day at our school, and that nothing will hinder them from coming to Him.

Celebrating His kingdom and the faith of our children,

Stephen E. Danish
Head of School

P.S.  You may have heard that ICS is expanding to high school. We believe that success for our students occurs when they are not only prepared academically for college and beyond, but also when they have the skills, habits, and confidence necessary to navigate life as young adults. The startup costs are enormous for high school and the on-going challenge is daunting. But God has already begun to provide through those who are committed to an Immanuel Christian High School. As you consider opportunities for year-end online giving, please consider the daily investment of ICS as we prepare young people to live skillfully and successfully in the kingdom of God.