One of the dominant images for Christians is “children of God.” Jesus taught us the value of this relationship by his habit of referring to God as “Father.” Having grown up in a family with five children, I resonate with the image of the church as “God’s family” and of individual Christians as “children of God.” God, in his mercy, places us in families when we are born so that we can be loved and nurtured and learn how to grow up and become fully human. Yet most families are not marked by continual peace and uninterrupted tranquility! My siblings and I did not always get along well and sometimes it was difficult to feel the love! God wants more from his spiritual family…
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
Christianity is designed to offer constant reminders that we are not to promote ourselves and place ourselves in opposition to others around us, rather we are to humble ourselves and consider others as better than ourselves. God wants his children to be loving and devoted to one another, not in competition and conflict with each other. Among God’s children, there is no place for spoiled brats! (Our loving Father will tell them to grow up, and will help them with that project!)
Christians experience a great leveling at the cross of Christ, where all people stand as unworthy sinners asking for his prayer of forgiveness to cover us. We experience that leveling again in the waters of baptism where we claim, not our own righteousness or virtue, but access to the grace of Christ Jesus through our death, burial and resurrection with him. We are continually reminded of our equality as sisters and brothers in Christ each time we offer prayers of confession and repentance, receiving once again the grace of Jesus to cover our sins. God does not have favorite children!
Of all people on the planet, Christians should be the most accepting and loving community because we have all been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and then clothed in his righteousness. You cannot walk away from the foot of the cross, where all are equal, and then continue to live with the barriers that Satan creates to keep people separated from one another and from our loving Father.
One of Satan’s oldest tricks is “divide and conquer.” God calls us to an unfailing commitment to “love one another” because where love rules there is no one left out, no one left behind and no one who can honestly say that they are not welcomed. When Christians live together lovingly, everyone who sees it wants to be part of the family. When we don’t, we should not be surprised if people avoid our house like the plague.
- Kenny Payne