Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

its main part, is letting God love us. That love, of course, when once it fills and rules our life, will lead us into every activity of service; but still this remains first and supreme in our love for God, the sense of our utter dependence and the eager desire for him to love us. And the spirit of mercy and peace, and the patient attitude under persecution, these are but the outworking of that love in our life with others. If we read, then, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, we shall find that song of love in the closest relation to these sayings of Jesus. Both show the same spirit of humility and devotion and desire which mark Christian love.

THE SPIRIT OF A CHILD The Child Spirit and the Kingdom.—Side by side with the Beatitudes, sharing their beauty and bringing the same lesson, stands the message of the child. There are two stories to be considered here. The first tells how the little children were one day brought to Jesus for his blessing, and how the disciples tried to keep them away that they might not interfere with the Master's work (Mark 10. 1316). The second narrates the rebuke which Jesus gave to his disciples in their strife as to which of them was greatest, and how he taught his lesson by placing the child in the midst (Matthew 18. 1-5). Now, in both cases we shall miss the lesson if we look only at the child. The main purpose of Jesus is not to talk of the child's relation to the Kingdom, but of the spirit that his disciples must have if they would enter that Kingdom. In both cases the disciples give the occasion for Jesus' word in their pride, their self-importance, their ambition. In both cases Jesus' message is the same: the men of the Kingdom must have the spirit of a child.

Childlikeness not Childishness.-It is easy to mistake Jesus' meaning here. He does not say that the child is the goal of the Christian life or a perfect example. The old theologians who talked about little children as though they were utterly depraved were no more wrong than the modern sentimentalists who talk of children as if they were

a

angels. The little child is neither an imp nor an angel, though the same child appears to act at times like both. We are not to expect little children to be saints; that belongs to mature Christians. The child is simply a man in the making. But the spirit of the child that draws us all is its openness and teachableness, its willingness to trust and to love. It is this that Jesus commends, not the immaturity of the child nor even its purity. The interest of childhood for us is not in its attainment, but in its promise. It is all open, all eager, all ready to trust and obey.

The Open Heart of the Child.—Here again are humility and desire, the thing that God wants. The tragedy of life is the loss of the spirit of the child that comes so soon. We lose the fine confidence in goodness and love; we lose our dreams: we grub in the muck with our rake and forget the sky and the stars. We lose our high hopes and ambitions and are cheaply satisfied. There is only one way to life: we must get again the open heart and the longing heart that we lost with our childhood. Only so, says Jesus, can we enter the Kingdom. We might turn the word about and say, only so can God enter into us; for the spirit of the child is the open door for God.

The Day of the Child.–Our day is the day of the child. The interest in the child came at first because of the helplessness of the child. So we planned child-labor laws to protect the child from exploitation, and compulsory education to secure him his rights. More and more we are seeing, however, that it is the life of the race, and not merely the right of the child, that is at stake. And this lesson on humility and desire shows why this is so. The child is our great chance to make over the world. The man past thirty rarely changes in his fundamental ideas and habits. We are hoping and praying to-day for a new world. In that new world there will be little of sickness and disease, and none of war. The strong will not exploit the weak, whether among nations or men. Broad of mind, clean of body, strong, just, kind, a new race of men shall walk the earth. How shall the new world come? Can we convert the chancelleries of Europe, the rulers and legislators of the earth? Can we make over the hearts of manufacturers and merchant princes? Can we transform the men of a city from intemperance and lust to sobriety and purity ? Can we change our citizenship from narrowness and indifference to alertness and unselfish devotion to the whole ? Can we win the estranged masses to the faith and life of Jesus Christ? Yes, we can do it-with a few; but the real hope of the world is not with the grown-up men, Here, however, is the steady flowing stream of childhood that comes anew to every generation. The habits of men are fixed, the life of the child is plastic. The hearts of men are filled with many interests and cares, the child is open. All that is beautiful and good, all that is high and holy, may enter the world of to-morrow through the gate of the child of to-day. That is why we say to greed and selfishness and ignorance, “Hands off !” That is why we must fight for good housing conditions, child-labor laws, a living wage for the father that will let mother and child stay at home, and a system of public education that shall fit the child to live. And that is why the Church may spare no thought or toil or means in her greatest task and her greatest opportunity: the religious training of the child. It is Jesus' teaching that discovers to us this significance of childhood.

SAINTS AND SINNERS Not Attainment, but Attitude.-We can see now how it was that Jesus so astonished the people of his day by the way

in which he classified men. They divided men according to their attainments, Jesus according to their attitude. They saw the respectability and strict observance of rules in the Pharisees; Jesus saw their pride and selfsatisfaction. They saw the sin and shame of publican and harlot; Jesus saw their willingness to trust and obey. It is not where a man stands that counts, but the direction in which he is facing. The Pharisees looked back contented upon their achievements. The others, out of their sin and shame, were looking toward God. The heart of the Pharisee was closed, the hearts of these sinners were open.

Very clearly does Jesus bring out this difference in the parable of the two men at prayer in the temple (Luke 18. 9-14). The Pharisee saw only his merit, the publican only his need. There was no question as..to the Pharisee's uprightness or the publican's evil record. But the door of that Pharisee's life was shut to God that day, and the door of this sinner's heart was open. And “this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.” The parable voices only what was made plain to Jesus by his own experience. He saw publicans and harlots, to his surprise, crowding into the Kingdom, eagerly taking his message, while the pillars of respectability and piety were unmoved.

[ocr errors]

DIRECTIONS FOR STUDY

The Scripture passages: Matthew 5. 1-12; Mark 10. 13-16; Matthew 18. 1-4; Luke 18. 9-14.

Read the lesson narrative, looking up all Scripture passages.

With your Bible open before you, try to get Jesus' teaching as to humility. What did he mean by this? How did he illustrate it in his own character and life? Did it involve weakness, or the highest strength?

Is aspiration usually thought of as a virtue? Why is it so important in the Christian life? Turn again to Jesus' life for examples. What is the difference between Christian aspiration and selfish ambition?

What is the difference between childlikeness and childishness?

Chapter IV indicates Jesus' standard and ideal of goodness for man. In this chapter we see what it was that determined for him whether a man was right, or justified. State briefly his teaching on these two points.

CHAPTER VIII

DEVOTION AND TRUST

THE Church has long emphasized the Christ of kindliness · and mercy and patience; there is danger that we forget the Jesus of stern demand. The God whom Jesus brought to men was a God of utter goodness, whose love knew no measure, who gave to men not only every earthly gift but

, his own self as well. But just because he gave so much, he had to ask much in return. He gave men the highest, he asked from them the utmost. All life, all love, all help he gave; in return he demanded perfect trust of heart and utter devotion of will. It is this demand of Jesus that we now consider.

JESUS' GREAT DEMAND One who was present at that historic moment, tells how the defeated but undismayed Garibaldi made his appeal to the cheering throng that crowded about him in the Piazza of Saint Peter's. “I am going out from Rome,” he said. “Let those who wish to continue the war against the stranger, come with me. I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor provisions; I offer hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles, and death. Let him who loves his country in his heart and not with his lips only, follow me.”

The Summons of Jesus. It was some such summons to devotion that Jesus brought to his disciples. He always put before men a sharp “either, or.” He had no place for half-hearted men. We see this first of all in the

way

in which he called his disciples. Follow me, he says, and they leave the sea and their nets and all the old ways

forever (Mark 1. 16-20). Matthew 10. 16-39 sets forth the devotion demanded of the disciple. We are told that the words were spoken by Jesus at the time when he sent forth the twelve upon a special mission. He asks of them absolute allegiance; they may even need to choose him over against

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »