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“You are all God’s children”

Posted Oct 7, 2017

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Daily Scripture

Galatians 3:26-4:7

26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

4:1 I’m saying that as long as the heirs are minors, they are no different from slaves, though they really are the owners of everything. 2 However, they are placed under trustees and guardians until the date set by the parents. 3 In the same way, when we were minors, we were also enslaved by this world’s system. 4 But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. 5 This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. 6 Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God.

Reflection Questions

Some Jewish Christians who followed Paul to Galatia claimed the Bible required Gentile men to be circumcised, to in effect become ethnic Jews, to join God’s family (cf. Genesis 17:10-14). But Paul was emphatic: God accepts all people, of all backgrounds, based on their trust, not because of outward identifying signs. “Faith working through love,” not ritual purity, was what mattered. The early Christian communities stood out in their world: “Only a minority of groups even claimed to surmount ethnic and class divisions; the churches who brought diverse peoples and classes together were thus distinctive. Early Christians…proved distinctive in challenging class (slave versus free) and often gender prejudices.”* That willingness to challenge prejudices needs to remain a distinctive trait of genuine Christianity.

  • The kind of Christianity the “Judaizers” wanted inevitably had strong cultural and ethnic overtones. But Paul, born in that ethnic group and culture, said, “Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.” Do you ever struggle to accept believers in Jesus who come from some ethnic, cultural or denominational background different than yours? More broadly, how about neighbors, fellow students or co-workers from an ethnic or cultural background different than yours? What helps you to view all people as beloved children of God?

Prayer

Creator God, your creation includes many kinds of flowers and trees, an amazing variety of animal life—and lots of different kinds of human beings. Plant in my heart your obvious delight in diversity. Amen.

Family Activity

The Bible tells many stories of missionaries. Create your own family “missionary” story. Gather your family for a local “missionary” drive. Before you leave, select a few places you would like to stop and share God’s love in some way. Would you like to take treats to firefighters or police officers and thank them for their service? How about praying for local store owners as you shop? Could you offer to do some yard work for a neighbor? Maybe you could visit those in the nursing home or a lonely neighbor. You might also want to walk through your neighborhood praying for your school and places of worship. Pray and ask God to help your family be missionaries, sharing God’s love wherever you go.

 

* HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 266575-266578). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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GPS Guide

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Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is the Community Pastor at Resurrection Downtown.

I’ll never forget some experiences when I first got out of school. I was sad to leave the friends I had studied and played alongside. I was also anxious about my homecoming. After several years away from my home state, my identity had transformed with some new convictions. I was anxious because I was once an insider in whom many had invested, but I felt I was returning as an outsider who had perhaps betrayed them. I was so anxious that I considered not coming back. I was much more comfortable maintaining the new friendships and the identity I had developed. I feared that this new identity would be challenged and I would lose some convictions I had gained, thus betraying the friends with whom I had developed this new identity.  

We all face questions of identity. People frequently ask: “Where are you from?”, “Where did you go to school?”, or “Where do you go to church?” It is common to check for mutual friends on social media before accepting a friend request. While in my first church out of school, I had an interesting experience of claiming identity. After sharing some of my new “strange” convictions, I would hear something like, “That’s what someone from there would say or think.” They believed I was from the place I had gone to school! They were always shocked when I shared that my geographical roots were the same as theirs. I believe it was hard to accept that we shared an identity, and that like mine, their identity too could be transformed.  

One of my ongoing challenges is to remain rooted and adaptable; to act with the confidence of a child of God (Gal 4:1) as I embrace the mystery of God’s Kingdom around me marked by diversity of thoughts, deeds, physical traits, and spiritual journeys. Honestly, I lean towards comfort in adaptability, while others find comfort in rootedness. I believe both have value and the tension they create is a part of our journey to know and love God.  

Paul’s teaching in Galatians 3 and 4 shows that our nature can be to maintain our identity in the past (as Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, men and women). But doing so neglects God’s promise for the future that has us all sharing a common identity as the Body of Christ (Gal 3:28). It is natural, because the past, pleasant or not, gives us a foundation upon which we now stand. Ideally, the past holds previously fulfilled promises, and fears we have already traversed. If not, take courage—God’s promise is more than a foundation. God’s promise looks forward—it is primarily a launching pad. Our inheritance as “heirs” (Gal 4:7) to the Kingdom of God is continually being revealed even as we live on Earth. It is no wonder that we are taught so many times in Scripture to never fear. We have nothing to fear in the past—it has already come and gone. Even if you feel caught in a cycle where the past repeats itself, if you are reading this, you have survived. Our bruises and scars remind us of where not to go, what to possibly expect in the future, and through it all to call out “Abba, Father” to God for comfort (Gal 4:6). For those stuck or unsure about the future, God’s promise is a word of hope. Things won’t always be as they always have been as we choose to celebrate the new identity God is revealing in and around us.   

I realize that I could have survived by maintaining the identity with which I had come—not my natural tendency but the tendency of the context in which I was raised. But God has called us to do more than survive. God has promised us abundant life (John 10:10). The thief in the night Jesus referred to is the one who convinces us that we are better divided by race, gender, and class, etc. The image of “coming in the night” doesn’t mean you need to leave your house lights on to ward off potential thieves. It tells me we should expect that thief from within. How did these messages get there? This is where I gain understanding about inheriting the sins of our ancestors. Paul said that as children we are under the guardianship of parents (Gal. 4:2). The messages to divide we received as children were usually subtle. They came like a thief without our parents even knowing we were receiving them. We saw the people our parents spent time with and the entertainment they choose. We weren’t blind to the composition of the teams we were placed on or the schools we attended. We knew places we could go and places we weren’t allowed. We heard the community’s anxieties about “them.” None of these in and of themselves were wholly bad or evil. They were subtle lessons that filled a void of curiosity about otherness. As we grew older those subtle messages informed our own biases and instincts. Without disciplined attention, we aren’t even aware we have them and we don’t fill the curiosity void with positive narratives about “the other.” Our subconscious instincts and biases sneak into every decision we make. We tend to pass them along to our children without even knowing it. We must remember that the thief is good at what he does—he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15). We must be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matt 10:16), because the world profits from our continual conflict, and so encourages it. But I say there is hope. 

In my journey to discover my identity, as a child of God and an heir to the kingdom, I have had the privilege of going to faraway places. In these places, almost no one shared my childhood and adolescent experiences, so I saw the world through a completely different set of lenses. I visited rural Appalachia as a teenager and walked away feeling that I need to always remind myself that there are poor white people too. My experiences in college and graduate school taught me to remember every day that people of different race and ethnicity, of different sexual orientations and genders, and of different socioeconomic status have gifts from God that help me and others inherit the Kingdom. As I’ve served in the local church, I have realized I don’t have to travel to faraway places to learn these things. Our communities, large and small, are full of “Greeks and Jews,” “free and slave,” “male and female.” We are called on a spiritual journey to courageously claim our identity with all of God’s children so that together we may inherit the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven. If you’re not already involved, I hope you’ll join a serve opportunity, a class, or some other social function of the church to build a foundation for this journey.  I hope you’ll then keep coming back to continually re-orient yourself towards the promise of the Kingdom of God.

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