Saint Paul in the portion of his letter to the Romans which we read this Sunday, explained God’s relationship to us in terms of adoption.
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. 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”. (Romans 8:15-17a)
What Paul is really saying here is that God considers us equal with Jesus Christ, God’s only Begotten Son, as inheritors of all God has to give. Through our relationship with our triune God, we are given gifts that empower our very lives: unending forgiveness, eternal life, comfort and protection through life’s trials, and a love that’s poured into us from beyond ourselves. Grounded in those amazing promises, you and I can live with confidence!
That confidence can then shape the relationships we build. As adopted children of God for all eternity, we can show that we’re secure in the Lord — not in some sort of smug way where we think we’re better than others because we’ve got Jesus. But we show our security in God by overflowing toward others with the fruits of God’s Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We can show people another way that stands in contrast to the slavery of fear that people seem to perpetually live in nowadays. We can show them the freedom of love and hope in life that we’ve received thanks to our relationship with God. What does an example of having the courage to bear a loving witness to our adoptive relationship with God look like?
I had the blessing of being with one of our church members this past week who lived into her late 80’s. Pat Butcher was a member of Good Shepherd Church for over 50 years. Although she lived as a widow for as many years as her 25-year marriage had been long, she lived near her two adult daughters and their families which included 6 grandchildren. She cared for her grandchildren nearly daily, helping to raise each of them. She attended as many of their school and church events as humanly possible. She cheered her grandkids on in every sport, pouring out her love. She also poured out her faith. She gave her grandkids children’s books of faith. She gifted them with devotional books and Bibles as they grew up. In her love for her grandchildren, Pat gave witness, with courage, to her love for the Lord.
Well, Pat died the other day at age 87, but not before this happened. Knowing she had a cancer that had returned, on Mother’s Day, four of her grandchildren from the one family still living in town, surrounded Grandma Pat – including the oldest of those four grandchildren who is completing a college semester of study in Sweden. That granddaughter Facetimed in to be with her siblings as they spent time with Grandma. The last picture of Pat with these 4 grandchildren is from that day. The picture shows the grandkids surrounding Pat as she holds a computer on her lap revealing granddaughter Allison Facetiming live from Sweden.
Now, the eternal promises in Jesus Christ that Grandma Pat taught them will hold those grandchildren in this time of her death. Then those grandchildren will continue on in life, with the courage to shape their own faith stories – because Grandma helped ground them with the love of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit upon them.
That’s being adopted as a co-heir with Christ by our living God. That’s the courage we’re given today because we’re loved by our triune God. Amen!