Sometimes it is difficult for kids (and the rest of us) to grasp what the love of God looks like. In a world saturated with skewed portraits of love at every turn, I’ve often found that kids bring almost as much baggage to the table as my friends and I do when the word ‘love’ is mentioned. The majority now come from broken families, and friendships are becoming so laden by technology-culture that there is less and less face-to-face struggle, forgiveness, vulnerability, and communication which often yields deeper personal understandings of love. More than ever, we need to be pointing kids to the scriptural metaphors and descriptions of this real, meaty, mysterious, identity-founding, life-giving Love who is actually at work currently revealing and redeeming.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. …For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! -Romans 5:8,10
Adoption in one of the predominant ways God reveals His love for His people in scripture. Not only do we come to understand Him as a good father who goes to any length (and the ultimate length) to reconcile His children to Himself, but we get to understand ourselves as the beloved sons and daughters of the Creator of the Universe. We are given a new identity in Christ- one that reorients us toward Love instead of ourselves. We are welcomed into a family that has connections that run deeper than blood and wider than a lifespan. We are transformed from enemies of God into cherished family by Jesus’ work on the cross, and not by anything we do. How mind-blowing and counter-cultural is that?!
…because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory -Romans 8:14-17
One of my favorite ways to facilitate understanding of God’s people (Israel) in the Old Testament is to explore what it means that God ‘created a family to share His inheritance with.’ Over and over again, He provides for His people, rescues them, and invites them to trust and worship Him. He pursues them, He fights their battles for them, and He constantly reminds them of His goodness- of how much He loves them.
When we think about the above scripture that describes our sonship in and through Jesus, we recognize that we go from being rebellious enemies of God to being made family with God. This news can (by God’s grace) transform every way we think about and relate to ourselves and others. We can be mercifully freed from focusing on ourselves (and our abilities) as the center of the universe and recognize that the Father is the head of our lives, the connection to deep purpose, meaning, and hope. He is the one inviting us to a bigger story – the Kingdom of God.
He gives us our identity, and He never changes even though many of the circumstances in our lives do. Our adoption as sons and daughters roots us in the One who invites us to receive always His love, His forgiveness, and His blessing. And our ministry is the outflow of this gift: we get to share with and remind those around us of this reality. Praise be to God.