Following is the sixth of weekly devotionals that will be posted throughout the Lenten season. May these reflections encourage and help you as you repent, reflect, and prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Thank you to Chad Stutz for today’s post.
We are all God’s children.
Many of us, no doubt, are familiar with this statement; perhaps we have even uttered it ourselves. And although it may strike some as a tired cliché, for countless others it remains a powerful motivator. It is easy to see why. In a world marked by hatred, violence, and division, the notion that we are all God’s children seems to offer a basis for unity and peace that only the most hardened atheist would deny. If God is our Father and we are his children, then we are all brothers and sisters; and if we are all brothers and sisters, then, well, we ought to be able to get along.
As appealing as this sentiment is, however, it isn’t exactly biblical. As J.I. Packer observes in his classic work Knowing God, “The idea that all are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere.” It is true, of course, that all human beings have been created in the image of God and that he has placed us just a little lower than the angels, but our status as God’s handiwork is something altogether different from being counted as a member of his family. The trouble with the claim that we are all God’s children is that it assumes that we are insiders when in reality we are, by nature, outsiders. Such a claim fails to own up to the fact that sin is a very real barrier to our fellowship with God.
Indeed, the Old Testament is filled with vivid reminders that our path to God is hindered by the obstacle of our own sin. After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, God ordered a cherubim, complete with flaming sword, to block their re-entry into Eden (Gen. 3:24); when Moses disobeyed the Lord at Kadesh by striking the rock, the Lord prevented him from crossing into the Promised Land before his death (Num. 20:1-14; Deut. 32:48-52); and if an Israelite violated the sacrifice protocols described in the Law, his punishment was to be “cut off” from God’s people (Lev. 19:8). Even the construction of the Tabernacle, with its series of veils (Ex. 26:31-33, 36-37), provided a constant, visible reminder that access to God was obstructed by the sins of the people.
It is important for us as Christians to remember just how insurmountable, from a human vantage-point, the barrier of our sin really is. No amount of effort, however strenuous or well-intentioned, can tear it down. There are no good deeds or rituals we can engage in that will enable us to circumvent it. Not even confession and repentance, as essential as these are, are sufficient in and of themselves to overcome this impediment. (It is one thing to recognize an obstacle and even regret its existence; it is another thing entirely to possess the ability to remove it.) In short, nothing in our own power can transform us from outsiders to insiders, from objects of judgment to genuine children of God.
Yet praise God for the good news of Christ! Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has broken through the barrier of sin once and for all. He has abolished forever the curtain that separates believers from God, and as a result we can enter into his presence with confidence and joy (see Heb. 10:19-22). Above all, if we have faith in Christ, we can truly call God our “Father,” claiming our place as his adopted sons and daughters, for as Packer writes, “The gift of sonship to God becomes ours not through being born, but through being born again.” As we enter into this final stretch of the Lenten season, let us be mindful of the mercy and grace of God that has removed the wall to make room for welcome.