Well, “little ones” and “children” might mean a lot of things in the NT. As 1 John 2:1 says: “My little children”—we wouldn’t imagine he is focusing on physical children. They are theological children. Is John the mother? Has he birthed them from his ‘bosom’ (John 13:23; cf. 1:18)
A Jesus follower is trying to come into a new, reborn consciousness, it seems. Jesus says, “unless you change and become like little children”—so this state is available to everyone? How does one become like a child?
How quickly ought one progress to maturity? In 1 Cor 3:2, Paul seems to speak to developmental delay: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”
The key seems to be no longer thinking of oneself as a “natural” person. One shifts into being a “spiritual” person—it is met in a state of infancy. One has been “reborn,” “born again.”
The later Christian tradition seems to want to think of the “old” state as sexual, lustful, or otherwise “earthly,” but I seem to think the meaning is ‘natural’ as in biological. The “old” way of being is formed by appetite and death.
To let go of those constraints and needs puts one in a new territory, where one’s sense of direction, and the boundaries and rules of the world, are hazy, unclear. If you aren’t biological, what do you do? How do you live? And here is where childhood seems apt: for the spirit-child is guided, learns to be, taught and directed. The spirit-parent is there with instructions, teaching.
The intrusion that Jesus speaks to—the child abuse—would seem to be theological pressures, or even spirit beings, who attempt to interrupt that process. This isn’t to say sexual abuse isn’t a vital Christian concern. The protection of all life is a concern.
But the “child” theology may also speak of larger theology: a new developmental track for all people to undergo, in an ascension to becoming ‘spirits’. I lately think of the Jesus teachings as opening a higher rung of an evolutionary ladder, of mortals able, with him, to develop higher, to train themselves to attain spirit-status upon death. It must be practiced, in this life. Beginning as a child . . .