SCRIPTURE: Romans 8:14-17
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 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!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Ronald J. Allen offers an interesting insight into this passage when he shares that “From the point of view of these larger concerns, Romans 8:14-17 is both an assurance and a challenge. It assures Gentiles that they are, indeed, led by the Spirit and consequently are children of God (v. 14). That is, they have a place in the church and will be included in the realm in the future. In addition, the text is an implicit challenge to the Gentiles to recognize that all who have the Spirit—including the Jewish community—are children of God. Indeed, the very words ‘children of God’ come from the language of Judaism. In antiquity, as so often today, people from one ethnic group feared people from other groups. Gentiles who became aware of their ungodliness feared the final judgment. When the Gentiles discount the Jewish people, they are slaves of the old world and its fears of other people and of the final judgment (v. 15a). Paul reminds the Gentiles that God has adopted them into the eschatological family (v. 15b). The Jewish people are already in that household. The ancient world respected old things. The Gentiles—as newcomers—should respect the Jewish community as the more established members of the eschatological household.”
The challenge that Allen mentions for Gentiles to recognize that “all who have the Spirit – including the Jewish community – are children of God” is just as relevant for our world today as it was then I think. In today’s world it may not be an issue of Gentiles recognizing the Jewish community as children of God (although I am sure that is still an issue for some), as much as in today’s world it might be some Christians inability to accept that the Spirit is with people in the LGBTQ+ community, and that they are also children of God. Too often Christians have used Scripture and doctrine to try to exclude people, rather than follow the commandments of Jesus to love our neighbors and go and make disciples.
Where do you struggle with accepting a specific group of people as children of God? Is this struggle something that you have had since a young age (and was maybe taught to you by others), or is it a more recent challenge in your faith? How have you worked to overcome this struggle (if you have)?
God of ALL creation, your Spirit moves and flows among humanity, regardless of the prejudices or opinions we may have of different groups of people. We do not have the authority to decide who are your children, and yet, we still find ourselves excluding people who love you, worship you, follow you, and just want to be a part of a faith community. Open our hearts, help us to push away the prejudices we hold so sacred, and may the Spirit work within us to be open, loving, and accepting children to all of your people. Amen.