It’s always been hard for me to grasp the fact that I am a child of God. Oftentimes my reaction to this incredible Christian doctrine is a half-hearted smile undergirded with an apathetic “So what?” It’s not that I do not believe God is my Father, it’s just that the proclamation “You’re a child of God” seems to carry with it an air of superficiality, as if it were nothing more than wishful thinking. Why does this concept of such great weight feel so oddly weightless? What does it mean to be a son of God? Do I imagine myself as a little child who looks up at my heavenly father (some benevolent old guy on a cloud in the sky) with goo goo eyes while he pats my head and reassures me that “everything’s going to be ok”? Or is God a distant, stoic Father who folds his arms and tells me to “suck it up” whenever I am weak?
It’s a bit underwhelming. And thankfully, unbiblical.
I recently stumbled upon this little gem in J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God:
God was happy without humans before they were made; he would have continued happy had he simply destroyed them after they had sinned; but as it is he has set his love upon particular sinners, and this means that, by his own free voluntary choice, he will not know perfect and unmixed happiness again till he has brought every one of them to heaven. He has in effect resolved that henceforth for all eternity his happiness shall be conditional upon ours.
I don’t know about you, but my relationship with God carries with it a sinful sense of entitlement. I truly believe I deserve God’s love. Why? Because I see my sonship a biological instead of adoptive.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
Paul makes it clear that we are brought into God’s family through adoption. The Gospel of John asserts that we are not born of God through the flesh, but through the Spirit. Why does this matter? In general, parents have an obligation to their biological children to care for and love them. The child, in a sense, forces his or her way into the lives of two people who now know their are expected to sacrifice and make plans around this new life. If we have this view of God, then God’s love for us is the norm. We are born into privilege and take for granted the stability and warmth of a healthy home.
Parents of adopted kids have a different story. They do not have an obligation to love a child in a foster home or an orphanage. They can very live their lives unimpeded by the struggles and sufferings that accompany taking a troubled child into their home. If they decide not to adopt a child because dealing with his or her’s fits of anger, skin color, or psychological baggage is too much, who will fault them? Every adoptive parent has the right to look at an orphan and say, “No. I don’t want you.”
But the beauty of adoption is that two parents decide to set their happiness and joy upon someone who is not entitled to it. The parents decide that out of sheer joy and compassion, they will cast aside their comfort to love someone that will make their life more difficult and complicated. It will require great sacrifice on their part to adopt this child. Hours of paperwork. Vast sums of money. Agonizing months of waiting. But they do it. They do it because they know that an orphan can do nothing to force himself into a loving family. He has to be chosen.
This is how God saves us. He leaves his perfect life and enters into an imperfect and bloody world. He peers into our filthy crib, covered in the mire of our sin, guilt, and rebellion, and reaches in to pick us up. He all of our unbelief, doubt and imperfection to bring us home. He did not fill out paperwork, nor did he pay any sum of money, silver, or gold, but with his own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18). That’s the Gospel. The absolute truth that the God who deserved everything became nothing to give those who were nothing, everything.
“That God, in eternity, looked upon me foreseeing my fallenness, my pride, my sin and said “I want that man in My family, I will pay for him to be in My family with My Son’s life. That’s Love folks. That is mega, off the charts, love!” – John Piper