I don’t know about you, but in the county where I live, there are some pretty nice houses that are worth many times as much as my own. There are – or used to be – at least a couple of country clubs in the area, with corresponding golf courses surrounded by fancy estates. I have had the chance to visit those country clubs on occasion, but usually through work and never through my own wealth or status!
Imagine being hired by somebody who is rich, but also pretty nice (we have some people like that in our our community). Maybe you’re helping plant some flowers, or doing some maintenance in their big house. When you’re done, you get paid (perhaps generously), and thanked, but that’s it. You’re not a part of their family, even if they bring you back from time to time to help, and even if they continue to pay you handsomely.
Their children, though, even if they aren’t given direct access to the family checking account, get privileges that those of us who work for the family don’t get to enjoy. The children live in the nice house, watch the big-screen TV, and ride around in the nice cars.
If a wealthy family adopts someone, though, and treats them as a full-fledged family member (as many adoptive parents do), then the picture changes entirely.
In that context, consider the following passage from the book of Galatians:
What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.
Galatians 4:1-3 NIV
Although God made each of us, there was an element of slavery or servanthood under the law. However, in the age of faith, we receive full adoption into God’s family. The time of the law (which was fulfilled by Jesus) has passed, but while it was in force, those who were under its authority were like heirs who were still under guardianship, and whose authority over the kingdom of God was limited. In some sense, they were no different from those who merely worked, without enjoying all of the benefits of being a part of the family.
Having been sealed with the Holy Spirit, though, (see 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:13-14, and Ephesians 4:30), faithful followers of Jesus enjoy being part of the family of God on earth, even as we look forward to an even greater experience with God in eternity.
As a side note: Following the same illustration as above, if you’ve known someone adopted into a loving, healthy family, you’ll probably find that they call their adopted father, “Dad” (and not Jim or Joe or Bob, or even Mr. Smith). When you’re part of the family, you refer to them accordingly (see Galatians 4:4-7).
So, once we are adopted into the family – not just a rich or influential family, but God’s family – why would we want to go back to just living under an inferior way of life (and not just living under it: being slaves to it)? It appears that the Galatians were allowing themselves to do just that, though:
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces ? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
Galatians 4:8-9 NIV
It might seem irrational to go back to living outside of a loving, successful family, after being adopted into it. Brainstorming a little bit, here were some of my theories as to why we might be part of the family of God, but then decide that we don’t want to live up to the expectations of that family:
- Maybe we don’t want to be responsible, and make the “big boy” or “big girl” decisions that being an adult entails?
- Maybe we don’t want to go through the work to invest and share what we have with others, and we prefer to just sit around with others outside of the family and use our belongings only for our own benefit?
- Maybe we’re embarrassed to be part of the family, because our friends make fun of it?
- Maybe we just got so used to our former way of life that it’s comfortable, like a person released from prison and going back to a life of crime?
- Maybe we don’t feel like we should have been adopted – that we’re not good enough or something like that – and we feel compelled to still live like our old lives?
I don’t know what you may struggle with, but if you are part of God’s family (and, if you’re not a part of the God’s family, the invitation to be adopted into it remains open), I encourage you not only to accept your new life of faith in Christ, but also to live wholeheartedly as a member of the family.
Being a part of the family isn’t just about the benefits, though, it’s also about maintaining the family’s reputation. This includes living a life that looks like our Father’s nature (and His Son Jesus – our brother through adoption) and making good use of the family’s resources. In addition to remembering our freedom on a regular basis, I think that remaining focused on the Father’s business (like Jesus did – see Luke 2:49) is a great way to keep us away from sliding back into our old life. Welcome to the family!
From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 15, 2021
- The Lookout, August 15, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.