When Jesus says to let the children come to him, he means let the beginners come to him, and “do not hinder them”. A disciple is simply a beginner, a new student in a new (to them) way of living. This “way”, of course, isn’t new to God. Jesus said all along that if we want to enter life, obey the commands.
What commands? Love God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself. In his own words, Jesus says that these two simple instructions sum up everything. It isn’t complicated, but we do need further guidance on how to obey and why it’s good for us to do so.
Jesus also explained to the beginners that he is the way, the truth, and the life. But where is this “way” laid out? Where do beginners start to follow this new way of living? How do they learn to love themselves as well as neighbors (assuming they already love God)?
In the Sermon on the Mount. These instructions span three full chapters in Matthew: five, six, and seven. It’s one continuous address; and it’s sequential. Step by step. It starts with eliminating anger and contempt. This step alone will revolutionize a life! Imagine not being ticked off or annoyed all the time. Imagine not being dragged all over the map by other people’s incompetence or stupidity? Imagine what that alone would do to lessen inner agitation?
That puts us in a brand new position of freedom. And from that new position, we can progress through Jesus’ next five areas of soul-killing attitudes:
- Adultery and divorce (obsession with others)
- Swearing oaths and over-committing
- Score-keeping and revenge
- Outer appearance and image
- Judgment and hypocrisy
In that specific order. If we try to do it randomly, we fail–not because we’re just no good, but because we’re using the wrong “system”. See, Jesus knows what makes us tick. He also knows what fouls us up and what will set us right. Disciples of his new way of living become increasingly free of what poisons their nature and prevents loving self and neighbor.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. The way I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jhn. 13:34-35)
It’s a new, but very old, command. And it isn’t complicated once we know where to find his instructions on how to begin carrying out the command.