Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV) – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Being a dad is about the greatest thing that I am. When Jules and I got married, I’ll be honest, I said I wanted kids, but I wasn’t sure. I liked kids. I like babies. But the idea of having someone that dependent upon me and my decisions was terrifying. Was I really capable of being worthy role-model? I thought, “heck no!” It was like a roller coaster to me. Once I’ve done the roller coaster I’m exhilarated, but leading up to it I’m a bit of nervous wreck internally. That was parenthood for me… Now I know… being a dad is amazing. I love my kids far more than I could have imagined, and it’s made my love and respect for Jules grow exponentially as I have watched her as a mom.
I say all that because in Ephesians 1:3-6 the concept of adoption jumps off the screen to me. My children were not adopted, but I have watched people with adopted children, and I’ve seen how the love they have for them is as great as the love I have for Caleb or Hannah. And I’ve walked with friends as they have gone through the process of adoption, and in all those adoption stories the road to the final signature was long, arduous, and at times downright painful. What makes adoption so remarkable is that it is based on the will of the parent to say, “I choose that one! That’s my child!” Then journeying down that winding road to make it happen.
The picture painted in Scripture about God and his people is so similar as to elicit metaphorical comparisons throughout redemptive history. From the time God reminds the Israelites he chose them, not because they were the greatest of people but because they were the least, to the believer’s right to be called a child of God through the salvation of Jesus Christ, the idea is clear: God’s divine adoption is based on his own loving choice of us, and he is willing to take the path to Golgotha to make it happen.
This is not something I can earn, anymore than an adopted child earns their selection by a good adoptive parent. God chose me and his people based entirely on his grace, and it is secured for me in the great sacrificial act of Jesus on the cross. Left there that would be huge, because I know myself – I do not deserve God’s love, and I don’t deserve to be counted as one of God’s children, but I am. Despite my sin and shame, I am loved because the blood of Jesus covers me. He is my brother. The glory Jesus gained through his life, death, and resurrection, I can now share in. Like a brother, I am an heir to the kingdom.
Yet that is not the end of the narrative. All parents have hopes and dreams for their children. Some are negative – like the over-bearing stage mom or the dad-turned-coach for the betterment of their young child’s “careers”. But the hopes and dreams I’m talking about are of the sort that most good parents have for their children: that they would grow up to be kind and hard-working, that they would think of others and would enjoy life, and, for followers of Jesus, that they would come to know and love the Lord.
In the same way, God chooses us to be his children that we might be “holy and blameless.” Meaning that we would live lives that reflect the goodness of who he is. We are to be different. That’s what the word “holy” literally means. This is the mark of the family of God; it is not about striving for some moral perfection for the sake of our own ethical pride, but it is about living in gratitude for being called children of God.
Of all the things the Lenten season does for those who adhere to the challenge, I think the most significant is that it sets apart time making it holy so that we might focus on the holiness of God and the holiness to which we are all called as his children. This is not a call he leaves to us alone, but like a parent guiding and teaching a child values and holding their hand through failure, God supplies us with his own power in the Holy Spirit if we would but take his hand.
Great God in heaven and Holy Father who loves me… thank you for choosing me to be one of your children and making me that child by the work of Jesus Christ. Help me to be grateful, and let your Holy Spirit walk with me hand-in-hand that I might be different… that I may be more like you. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.