I had a disagreement with a theologian after a sermon I preached. This seminary professor questioned my use of the phrase “children of God” to refer to all human beings. “Through baptism into God’s family,” he said, “we become children of God. Before we encounter God’s saving grace, we are strangers to God. We must become children by grace.”
I appreciated his point and recognized that scripture uses that language. But here, as Paul preaches to the Athenians, he suggests the opposite. He quotes one of the Athenians’ own poets, accepting the truth of the poet’s point—we are all God’s offspring. The problem, it seems, for Paul is that though we are God’s children, we don’t know it. We haven’t awakened to the deepest truth of our identity as beloved children of God. Too often we cannot see this truth, and therefore we can’t live out of it. We live believing we must become something we are not.
That’s why when God’s son Jesus walked the earth, we didn’t recognize him, and we refused to receive the gift of his presence. Through the resurrection, we are able to glimpse God’s desire for us to know who we are—beloved children of God—and live out of that reality.
Hearing about it for the first time, the Athenians find the notion of resurrection difficult to believe. Christians today are in danger of making the opposite error. We’ve heard about the Resurrection so much that we forget what it means. But we dare not forget, for in the resurrection God’s embodied Love returns and forgives, giving us the grace to become fully what we already are: children of God, offspring of divine love.
Gracious and loving God, help me to recognize the deepest truth of my identity: I am your beloved child. Give me the grace to see others that way as well. Amen.
In Acts, Paul visits Athens and finds the people worshiping various deities. He attempts to show them the one true God not by open confrontation but by understanding where they are in their own thinking and then engaging in conversation. This model is confirmed in First Peter: We should always be prepared to give reasons for our faith, but this should be done with gentleness and respect, not confrontation. The psalmist promises to make offerings in the Temple to the Lord because God has brought the people through a period of testing. The psalm thus also ties into First Peter, where the believers are being tested. Jesus tells his disciples in John that God will send the Spirit to empower them to demonstrate their faith by keeping his commands.
Read Acts 17:22-31. When have you searched for God? How did God’s nearness surprise you?
Read Psalm 66:8-20. What tests have you endured? How have you known God’s presence through times of difficulty?
Read 1 Peter 3:13-22. How does your faith help you determine what is right? How does it give you courage when doing what is right brings you suffering?
Read John 14:15-21. When have you felt encompassed by the Trinity? When has your identity as part of this family felt fragile?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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