Sunday, January 4, 2009

On Being a "Son" of God

One of the things I love about preaching is the way I keep learning as I prepare. Something new this week has to do with the idea of being a "son" of God. The word in the New Testament is υἱός and, according to God's promise, it applies to both men and women who hear and believe God's Word. When the barriers come down and God welcomes us into a good relationship with himself, we are not only forgiven and saved, we become "sons" of God.

What follows here may not be clear... shoot me a note or add a comment if it's hard to follow and I'll try to clear it up...

Because my parents did a great job of teaching and leading me to God's love, and thanks to the many other adults who came alongside to help me trust God, there has never been a time in my life when I did not understand that I was loved as a child of God. As time went on that understanding was deepened. I learned I was more than just a "child" in the sense of a helpless or needy person. I learned that God had given me, my his grace, the title or position "son," that is "son" as in a authoritative position in God's household. In the ancient world, the "son" would inherit the father's authority. As "sons of God" both men and women are given this honor. It's a truly amazing thing.

That much I knew. In preparation for this week's sermon, and as I was actually preaching this morning, it occurred to me that I had missed something. As a suburban-bred baby boomer, I didn't grow up with the same sense of family that people do who have a family business or a family farm. I love my dad and mom very much, but growing up on a 60 by 80 foot lot in Crystal, I didn't particularly get the sense of how great an honor it was to be the son of my parents. Yes, my dad was a professional engineer who had worked with complex production systems for years, especially for Honeywell. And my mom, along with doing such a great job of giving my sisters and brother and I a secure, loving home, she was a leader in my home church, serving there as the first woman president. But, for those who grow up on the land, or for those who inherit a business, the sense of being a "son" or "daughter" is much more.

In the ancient world, family was almost everything. That was my new learning this week. The family was the center of economic and political life. Who you were related to, or not, meant everything about your status and your future. Being a "son" of someone who was successful would mean that you would someday take over that business too. Being a son meant you had a chance to "make it" in the world. In those days, it was almost only males who could be "sons" in the sense of following in the family business or the family farm... that's just how it was. But we're talking here about "son" as a title, not as a "child" of a particular man or woman. Now, this title could apply to either.

If you can follow that, you can perhaps understand the amazing thing that being a "son of God" would be for someone in the ancient world. Being a "son of God" would mean that you would gain the authority and riches of God himself! Of course, in God's case, he never dies, so we don't ever bump God on the throne. But, we do rule with him, as his "sons" (whether men or women). And there is no other way to gain that same position. You can't buy it, you can't trade for it, it needs to be given, as a father would give a child (natural or adopted!) the title "son" as a free gift. Wow. To me, that truly broadens and deepens what I understand about the glory of belonging to the Lord. To be his son or daughter... to be his "steward," there is nothing better than that.

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