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  • Rev. Annie McMillan

“Children of God”

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called

God’s children, and that is what we are.” I often mention that in baptism we are

adopted into God’s family. But I’m not sure I’ve ever talked about what that would

have meant to the early church. See, adoption worked a bit different during Roman

times than it does today. Older children were adopted, but not because of a feeling

of pity or charity for an orphan. Rather children, teenagers, and even adults were

adopted by a family typically because the family had no sons, either due to deaths

or only daughters, and so the family had no heirs. Older boys or young men were

typically adopted because they were more proven both in health and potential.

When adopted, the youth would give up his previous family name and take on all

of the status and responsibility as if he had been born to his new family.


That is what it means that we are children of God. God has adopted us into

God’s family as if we were “blood-kin.” Yet we have not proven ourselves as an

adopted son of Roman times would have to do. God didn’t scour the countryside to

find the one most qualified individual to be part of the family and inherit because

there was no one else. We are not the most suited to the inheritance: who among us

has been able to truly follow Christ and live in perfect love for all neighbors? Yet

there it is: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be

called God’s children, and that is what we are.”


In 2011 Rev. Joseph Yoo wrote a story that’s on Ministry Matters which

further illustrates this wondrous love. Rev. Yoo had looked forward to being a

father since he was in high school. He got married, and they waited before trying to

have kids because the timing wasn’t right: he and his wife were looking at 6

months apart while she finished seminary. In his story, Yoo connected his love for

a child not yet conceived to God’s love for us. He wrote


It’s been 5 years since we've been married and over 2 years since

we started trying for a baby. And nothing. This deep desire for

wanting children only grows bigger. … That’s why every time I get

news about our friends getting pregnant, it hurts just a little bit. Don’t

get me wrong. I’m always so excited and happy for them, but also

deeply envious. In my heart, I'm praying to God, “When is it going to

be our turn?”...

But through this struggle, pain, and frustration, I begin to sort of see

a glimpse of God’s love for me.

This child that we earnestly pray for; this child that hasn’t even

been born yet, or may never be born— I already love her or him.

Deeply. I know that he or she is going to have a father and mother

who will love him/her deeply, as best as we can, and will be raised in

the presence of God’s love and grace. Whether the child likes it or

not, he or she will be loved and has no choice but to be loved by us.

There’s not a single thing our child will be able to do about it.

This is a picture of God’s love for me from the beginning of my life

to the day that I die. Before we were born, God knew us and loved us

deeply.

We were wonderfully and fearfully made by God. Whether we

choose to embrace it or not, God loves us. Whether we feel we

deserve it or not, God loves us. There’s nothing that can separate us

from the love of God, …

So may we be reminded of how far, how deep and how wide our

God’s love for us is. Whether we're struggling or whether we're

joyous, let's take time to bask in the presence of God’s love and grace,

letting it flow through us and transform us.


If you’re curious, the Yoo family decided to become foster parents to a young

boy and ended up adopting him. Rev. Yoo’s love for his son can be seen

throughout his blog.


We are children of God, loved no matter what. And John makes it clear that

if we are children of God, then we should act accordingly. As we heard in this

morning’s passage: “no one who abides in him sins.” Yet earlier in this letter, John

claims “if we say we do not sin, we deceive ourselves.”


There is a definite tension that cannot be explained away. We sin: we can’t

pretend otherwise. Yet as Christians we are called to act like the children of God

that we are; our actions matter. In his Working Preacher commentary one year,

Brian Peterson wrote, “There is a genuine tension, both [in the scripture] and

within the experience of the church, regarding the reality of sin on the one hand,

and life as God’s children on the other. What is clear is that the author will allow

neither self-delusions of sinlessness nor a casual acceptance of sin within the lives

of God’s children. …Sin within those who hope in Jesus is both a real possibility,

and a profound contradiction.”


We are beloved children of God, and as inheritors, we are given the

responsibility of sharing that love with others. And when we fail, we fall back on

the grace of God as found in Christ Jesus. As 1 John states at the beginning of

chapter 2, “If you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the

righteous one. He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins

of the whole world.” See what love the Father has given us, that we should be

called children of God.


As Rev. Yoo ends his story: “Always remember that you are loved. And

there’s nothing you can do to change God’s mind.”


Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

Amen

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