Scripture: Romans 8:12-17
I do not know if you have one or not, but everyone I know who has a DVR thinks is the best device ever. This little box allows users to record TV and watch it later. All of the people I know who love there’s express one of the reasons why they love it so much is because it allows them to skip past all of the commercials. I know that I am in the minority, but I like commercials. Rather, it is more accurate to say that commercials and advertising in general is fascinating to me. Advertising is so interesting because of how good we have gotten at influencing people to spend money. Advertising is a huge business. It is estimated that companies in the US will spend 183 billion dollars advertising this year. All of that money is being spent in hopes to get us to spend even more. It is estimated that on average from commercials to billboards to webpage banners to print media we are exposed to 5,000 advertisements a day. Advertising literally forms the background of our lives, and all of it is hoping us to influence us one way or another. One of the reasons why advertising is fascinating to me is because of all the techniques that have been developed to entice and influence us. I know one of the biggest techniques that sucks me in, is the limited time sale. If there is something I am already kind of wanting anyway and it goes on sale for a short time (and especially if it is in a limited quantity), then they probably have my money. On the other hand, there are some advertising techniques I respond negatively towards. Personally, I do not take well to emotional manipulation. An example of this that comes to mind, our animal shelters showing either sad looking or super adorable animals with the tagline “Adopt me today.” The animal ones have always especially bothered me, because I have to wonder why is that specific cat or dog special? Presumably the shelter advertising, has multiple animals so why is this one highlighted as being exceptionally worthy? I am not specifically a cat or a dog person, but if I was I am not sure if I could adopt an animal from a shelter. I am not sure how I could see all of those animals desperate for a home, desperate for care, and not just say I will take them all.
This morning’s scripture from Romans that tells in part about God’s incredible love for us. The image this scripture contributes to is, a loving God, who upon seeing humanity desperate for an eternal home and desperate for care says I will take them all. The basic thought that is presented in this morning’s scripture is that we are adopted by God. This is a concept that appears in many places throughout the New Testament. I do not know if you have ever considered the idea of being adopted by God, but biblically speaking this is one of the fundamental ways that we should understand our relationship with God. When we consider the full scope of what this means, it can have a profound impact on how we understand our relationship with God.
Once in a staff meeting at the beginning of a devotion, over this verse the senior pastor asked a trick question. He asked before reading the scripture “Is everyone a child of God?” Of the eight or so other people in the room, six said yes. The pastor of visitation and myself said no. The commonly held belief in churches is that all people are God’s children, but again if we look at how the scripture defines that term, not everyone is a child of God. Everyone is uniquely created by God. In fact, if we look at Psalm 139 it states that we are knitted together, hand crafted by God. God know the number of every hair on every head, and God loves every single person on this planet with an unfathomable and unending love. That is all true, but that does make everyone God’s child. That is a different relationship. The parent-child relationship is a whole different level of relationship. Not that long ago, my daughter woke up crying. It was dark, all of the lights were off and nothing could be seen. I did not say anything, and just by touching her head she knew it was me. There is a depth of knowing and connection in the parent-child relationship that surpasses just about any other relationship. All relationship, including our relationship with God, our two way streets. They are defined by how well both parties know each other. God knows everyone intimately, but not everyone knows God in the same way. Only those who are God’s children relate to God with that kind of depth, and God’s children are those who God has adopted.
The ancient Greco-Roman world, had a slightly different understanding of family than we do today. Like for most of us today for them, family was everything. However, family was not traced strictly by bloodlines. In ancient Roman culture, it was understood that the son reflected the father. It was the desire of Romans to leave a lasting legacy, and it fell to the children to carry on this legacy from generation to generation. For ancient Roman families immortality was achieved through a strong family line. The son would inherit the father’s titles, roles, and responsibilities. It was the responsibility of the son to carry on where the father left off, and in doing so bring great honor to the father’s legacy. To ensure this adoption was a common practice. However, most forms of adoption in the Greco-Roman were different than today. Today it is most common for infants or very young children to be adopted. However, in the first century young adults would regularly be adopted. The most famous example of this, is Julius Caesar adopting his adult nephew Augustus. This adoption made August the son of Caesar, so when he was killed, Augustus had the right to take the name Caesar for himself and carrying on his adopted father’s legacy. It was also often the case that trusted and befriended slaves would be adopted. This adoption would instantly free the slave and elevate their social status to that of son. There are instance where in an instant, someone went from occupying the lowest rung of the social hierarchy to the highest because of an adoption. The former slave both legally and culturally became the son of their former master, and the adopted son received all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a son.
When Paul writes in this morning’s scripture that we are the “children of God”, he is not being poetic. He is making a legal statement. He is defining exactly how we should relate to God. Earlier in the book of Romans, Paul goes into great detail how all people are in bondage and slavery to sin. He then goes on in Romans to explain how Christ paid for this debt with his life. In another letter Paul makes the same point and writes in 1 Timothy 2:6 that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all.” In the ancient world to which Paul was writing they still had debt slavery. Which means if a person was deeply in debt and someone bought or ransomed, their debt then the debtor was now the slave of the person who paid their debt. Through Christ, God paid our debt to sin. He bought and redeemed us from sin with the blood of Christ. In this morning’s scripture Paul wrote, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather the Spirit you receive brought about your adoption to sonship.” We have been purchased by God but not to be slaves but to be children. God did not free us from sin and give us eternal life, because he needs us to do his chores, he did it because out of a great love for us. God loves us with the all-consuming, all-encompassing, undefinable love that a parent has for their child. This is the kind of relationship that God wants to have with us.
If you have accepted forgiveness of sins through Jesus, then you have received the spirit of adoption and are God’s child. According to this morning’s scripture this is not just in the metaphorical sense, but in the literal sense: “We are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” This means that we have ownership in the kingdom of God. The story goes that a farmhand worked a farm owned by an aging older couple. As the years past and the couple got older they could not do as much and some of the upkeep on the farm started to fall to the wayside. The paint on the barn started to peel, the fence slats were loose, the gravel road had growing potholes, and the list went on. As the farmhand did his hired list of jobs like milking the cows, he would regularly notice the growing list of things that needed to be done. However he thought, “What is that to me? It’s not my farm.” Then one day the farmer and his wife invited the farmhand to dinner and told him how much he had meant to them over the years. They told the farmhand since they had no children of their own, they wanted to give the farm to him when died. The next day as the farmhand was going to milk the cows he noticed the paint on the barn, but this time he REALLY noticed it. In a few days he painted the barn, a week later he fixed the fence, and by the end of the month all of the potholes in the road were filled. He was now an heir to the farm, and his treatment of it changed. He was now invested in how it went because he knew that it was his.
In the same way we are heirs to the Kingdom of God. This means that we have an eternal home and salvation prepared for us, but we also have ownership of God’s kingdom on earth. When the sick are cared for in the name of Christ, when the unloved are embraced in the name of Christ, when the lost are found, when the enslaved to sin are freed, and when lives are transformed that is the kingdom of God on earth. When love wins and hate loses, that is the kingdom of God. When evil is opposed and justice flows, that is the kingdom of God. If you are consider yourself a Christian, then your relationship with God, is not just about you and your personal salvation. You are an heir to the kingdom. It in part belongs to you. Just like the farmhand took ownership in the farm, we need to take ownership in the kingdom. That means it is our job to be the one who comfort the sick, love the unloved, share the freedom of the gospels, make disciples of the nations, and transform the world. How are you doing at being an heir to the kingdom? This is more than a rhetorical question. We are God’s children. By our behavior and by our actions, do we honor our Father in heaven or shame him? Do we value our inheritance of the kingdom or are we squandering it? We need to consider these questions in the depths of our soul. We are God’s children, by the grace of God and the power of his Spirit, may we act like it.
My memories start somewhere around the ages of three to four. So I can remember, being held by my parents and being told I love you. As a parent myself now, I am not sure what is the better experience to be the child or the parent in that embrace. Either way, I think that connection, that depth of love experienced between parent and child in that embrace has to be one of the absolute best experiences in all of human existence. Paul wrote that as the children of God we can cry out “abba, father.” Technically Abba means father in aramic but it is the more informal version of the word. A better translation of abba is daddy. In this morning’s scripture Paul makes the incredible bold claim (the scandalous claim?), that we can approach the creator of the universe, the being of ultimate power and authority, who holds the powers of creation and destruction, a God who is beyond our comprehension and understanding. We can approach this God and say, “I love you daddy.” Not only that, but we can fully expect to fill in the depths of hearts and the fullness of our souls that God’s response is “I love you too child.” By the Spirit of God and the sacrifice of the son, we ARE God’s children. Thanks be to God.