When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
How often are you identified with a number?
At the bank you have an account number, a PIN number to use your debit cart, a credit card number, with expiration date and security code. The IRS identifies you by your Tax File Number. When you call your utility company about a bill, the first thing they ask you is, “What is your customer number?”
Wouldn’t it be nice if just once someone identified you by your name?
Our names are important because they give us a sense of belonging, whether that name is acquired at birth, or in adoption, or assumed at marriage.
Our name becomes perhaps the best way that people know who we are. We are also identified by who our family is, what we do, or where we come from.
However, as rich and important as those identifiers are, there is an even greater identity that we share – whether we realize it or not. That is our identity as children of God.
Jesus prioritized his Child-of-God identity above other identities, such as his Jewish identity, hometown identity, family identity and kinship identity.
Jesus was the Son of God, but his baptism gave him the verbal assurance that he was indeed God’s son. The identity of Jesus then is known throughout the entire gospel story and then takes us from his baptism to the cross.
Likewise, in our baptism, God comes to us and says, “I love you. You are my child, forever.”
God makes a commitment to love you, forgive you, to walk with you wherever life’s journey might take you, to give you the Holy Spirit to guide you in your Christian living, to give you eternal life. You were claimed by God on that day. You were made a child of God. And as Paul says in our focus reading, “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
In our baptism, the Spirit of God came to us and we became a member of the community of the Spirit. We know it as the church, the visible sign of God’s kingdom. In this community of the Spirit, we are to grow spiritually.
The implication of our identity as children of God is that we are to be a sign of God’s love to one another, by sharing that love with one another in and through profound relationships.
Yet as baptized children of God, as Christians, we are always struggling to find God’s path, always struggling with doubts and obstacles. We discriminate, we judge, and we play favorites for many reasons — race, religion, gender, intelligence, politics, and nationality, among others. When emphasis on differences becomes the driving force of our lives, we find ourselves living in a dangerous place and we may lose our perspective if we are not careful.
But the irony in all this is that it is in church, the place where we are supposed to demonstrate the love of God, is where we most often show our prejudice.
Just this week we witnessed a horrific act of violence when a gunman killed eight people, six of them Asian women whose crime was nothing more than being a different gender and a different ethnicity than the killer. Sadly, these episodes have become far too commonplace. (See my blog post for March 5, 2021)
Playing favorites, discriminating, is easy; loving indiscriminately is hard.
But Paul says to us, “…you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” It is through that Spirit that we bear witness that we are children of God.
As children of God, members of the body of Christ, it is our responsibility, the responsibility of all of us, to be that life-giving spirit, and caregivers for one another. The Spirit calls us to speak out against, and condemn any act of violence, any injustice, any show of favoritism. The central, integrating message of our lives is that we seek to be an instrument of God’s love and compassion in every life we come into contact with, and wherever our journey of faith may take us.
That is Paul’s message to the Roman Christians, and to us today.
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