In my years as a pastor, one of the most wonderful things I have experienced is watching new families begin their lives together. I have celebrated the announcement of pregnancies. I have watched in wonder as parents anticipated a birth through nine long months of preparation. I have spent countless hours waiting in the hospital hallways with extended family members, knowing that labor never moves as quickly as we would like it to. I have been present when babies have drawn their first glorious breath. It is a wondrous thing to watch a new family start a life together.
Yet, perhaps even more amazing to watch are other new families who begin a life together in other kinds of circumstances. I have been there when couples have announced that God has blessed them with a child to adopt from another country. I have listened to them make travel plans and prepare their homes for the arrival of a toddler. I have seen couples welcome foster children who have great needs into their homes. And I have seen a wonderful transformation take place in the lives of teenagers as they begin to respond to the care and love offered to them, because they are made to feel that they belong, sometimes for the first time in their lives.
There is something extra special about these families it seems, because of the tremendous effort required by the parents to bring these children into their homes. As I have looked upon these families, I have come to realize the beauty of a child being chosen in these ways. It is a deliberate and intentional act of love and welcome. In fact, one woman reminded me of a beautiful truth in a Christmas card when she wrote that in the holy season we were celebrating Jesus’ birth—and that Jesus was Joseph’s adopted son. That adoption imagery has become powerful to me because it speaks to a truth of our relationship with God.
Paul uses the image of a new, deliberately chosen family to beautiful effect in this passage. As he celebrates the gift of God’s Spirit in the life of the believer, he reminds us of the good news that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” The life of faith results in a new state of being for the believer, because we have now become a part of the divine family! We are children of God and siblings of Jesus, and God’s very Spirit assures us of this truth. Paul reminds us that we have received a precious gift through grace, for “you have received a spirit of adoption.” God has extended a welcome to me, and I have been deliberately chosen to become a child of God.
As I look at families where loving adoption has taken place, I am overwhelmed by the idea that God has welcomed me into God’s family in the same way. I am now called by God’s name, forever identified with him. I am loved and cherished. I was once outside of this family, but now I have been brought into this circle of caring. This new relationship with God was not accidental, but a deliberate act of inclusion on God’s part. God willingly offers me every good thing. My needs are going to be provided for by a loving parent. My heavenly Father is concerned at all times for my welfare, and God will always seek to bless me. I have all the rights and responsibilities of any other child in the household. I have been accepted and embraced. I am now home.
As we celebrate Trinity Sunday, my hope is that we will look again at the grace of being included in the divine family. At the beginning of today’s passage, Paul uses images of life and death. I am reminded that this grace in which we stand not only has eternal consequences, but consequences for this life as well. We are invited to partake in a way of life that is Spirit-filled and abundant. When life becomes difficult, and we struggle with our sinfulness and brokenness, it is easy for us to feel like orphans. We begin to question if we really do have a home to return to and a loving parent to embrace us. Paul understands this struggle, and he acknowledges the temptation. He tells us it is at those times that we call on our “Dad” the most. We are encouraged to put aside the “spirit of slavery” that causes us “to fall back in fear,” and to embrace the new life that is possible for us as adopted children of God.
Years ago, adoption was viewed as something strange or unusual. Many people even tried to hide from their children that they had been adopted. It was somehow believed that knowing you were adopted might make you feel unwanted or unloved. While the emotional issues surrounding adoption are indeed very complicated, I can see the wisdom in approaching the topic openly. A child who is adopted is not unwanted, but in fact chosen and loved. I believe that society as a whole is coming to this understanding. Families are formed in different ways, and adoption is nothing short of a miracle of grace—for both the parents and the children. Perhaps we could learn something by embracing this truth in our spiritual lives as well.
This passage invites us to celebrate our adoption and to rejoice in the love of God that has filled our lives. The divine family has a place of welcome for us all. There is an open door, a seat for us at God’s table, and a reassuring word that we are indeed God’s beloved children. May we go forth with the security of knowing that we have a parent who has chosen us and called us by name.