CHILDREN OF GOD

 

{Delivered on March 15, 2006, at Englewood United

Methodist Church, Rocky Mount, NC}

 

The season of Lent is a time for acknowledging and accepting our humanity. In order to understand what it means to accept our humanity we must first realize that “ being human” has at least two meanings.


In the first sense, to be human means to be an individual living in a certain place and time. It means living as part of a certain family. It means living in a certain culture. It means having a certain point of view. We are NOT God. We are not above the world. We are IN the world.


More correctly, we live in OUR world. Most of us in this room see everything through glasses that have Nash County, North Carolina, American, middle class, Protestant lenses. A few thousand miles away there are people who see everything through glasses that have Middle Eastern, Arab, Muslim lenses. We live in very different cultural worlds.


But as individual human beings we also live in very different individual worlds. This is easy to see when we reflect upon how quickly we change when we change our roles…for example, when we change from being children to being parents, from being students to being teachers, from being employees to being employers, from being citizens to being elected leaders.


Because there are many different ways of seeing things, there are many opportunities for conflict. And yet we are all children of God.


To accept our humanity in this first sense means to accept all the children of the world as our brothers in spite of our differences...to humbly admit that our way of seeing things may not be the only way to see things.


But, in another sense, we can accept our humanity and still FAIL to be children of God. To be human in this second sense means to be CAPABLE of becoming children of God. To be human in this second sense means, fundamentally, to be a sinner.


Let’s return to the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve lived in a world where there was no sin. In fact, they did not live at all. They simply “floated” innocently through life. At one moment they ate grapes. At another they went swimming. They sang. They ran through the fields of grass. And they never knew they had it so good. They were totally absorbed in the world. They luxuriated in God’s creation.


But then the serpent suggested that they eat of the fruit that would give them the knowledge of good and evil. If they were to eat of that fruit, they would become like God! And the serpent was right. Adam and Eve, just like God, came to understand the difference between right and wrong. They came to realize that they had choices and that they were free to make those choices. They came to realize that they could make mistakes and that they were responsible for those mistakes. They thus became acutely and painfully aware of their own inadequacy. They then began to develop ways to escape from their freedom. Not only did they learn how to lie to other people. They even learned how to lie to  themselves.


The story of the Adam and Eve is the story of every human being. It is the story of growing up.


We all begin as innocent children. We are totally absorbed in our environment. We feel it. We taste it. We smell it.


We are also totally irresponsible. We get hungry. We cry. We eat. We “take no thought for the morrow.”

 

But as time goes by, we slowly and surely lose our innocence. We begin to realize that we can “do it ourselves.” We begin to assert our “selves.” We begin to consider alternatives. What shall I wear tomorrow? Who shall I marry? What shall I do with my life?


All parents can appreciate the poignancy in the following conversation:

   “Daddy, I want to be like you …when I grow up.”
   “Son, if you only understood how much I want to be like you …right now!”


To be human is to be a sinner...to lose the innocence of childhood.

 

But Jesus says: Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not. For OF SUCH is the kingdom of God. Jesus is talking to us.

 

He is inviting us to consider the possibility that God wants us to return to our childhood. To return to that state where we are totally trusting. To return to a life of reckless abandon.

 

Jesus is for us the perfect living image of a child of God.

 

I can see the sparkle in his eyes. I can see how much he enjoys his family and friends. I can see him breaking bread with total strangers, even strangers who are avoided by everyone else. He was completely trusting. Completely vulnerable. Unconditionally loving. He innocently enjoyed the world God gave him. He innocently enjoyed other children of God. He innocently accepted life. And he innocently accepted his own death as part of the life God gave him.

 

I think we all want to be like Jesus. What is his secret?

 

The secret may perhaps be revealed through the season of Lent….the period during which Jesus prepared himself for what has come to be called the “passion,” the period of suffering leading up to his crucifixion.

 

Let’s think for a moment about the word “passion.” The opposite of passion is “action.” When we are adults we take action. We DO things. But we also struggle with alternative courses of action. Sometimes we make the wrong choices. Sometimes we cannot even make a choice. We long to escape from this freedom that God gave us. 

 

Should we consider the opposite course….should we consider passion?

 

Admittedly, the passion of Jesus was suffering. But what is true suffering? I suffer whenever something bad happens to me. But the suffering of Jesus is the suffering that is hinted at by the use of the word “suffer” as when Jesus said to “suffer” the little children to come unto him. Suffering here means to “permit.” It means to “get out of the way.” It means to “let it happen.” It means to “let go.” It means to “give in” to life. To trust life. 

 

Jesus was able to be passionate. Being able to be passionate means being able to “let” yourself be “possessed.” To allow yourself to be “transformed,” I.e., to allow yourself to be the “real” self, the “childish” self you really want to be. 

 

But how can we “let go”? How do you DO that? But that is the point….you cannot. Like so many aspects of life….we must hold on to contradictory notions. As free human beings we want to do things to become children of God. And yet we cannot do anything to become children of God. We can only surrender. 

 

And how do you DO that? You do not. You listen. You wait. You meditate. You remember your humanity. You remember your limitations. You acknowledge God’s goodness. You pray for God’s grace, but you acknowledge that you deserve nothing from God. You thank God for life and for the privilege to live in his wonderful world. You look for opportunities to show your gratitude. You look for opportunities to make God smile. 

 

We long to be children of God. Sometimes we get a glimpse of what it is like. And then we lose sight of it. But then we are encouraged when God gives us the grace to see that life is a journey. As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to continue the journey. We have the opportunity to be transformed by God’s grace. We have the opportunity to thank God for accepting us as his children even as we foolishly struggle to become his children. 

 

A child of God is not a child of ACTION. He does not wonder whether to DO this or that. He does not wonder HOW to do this or that. A child of God is a child of PASSION. He surrenders himself to something beyond himself. He allows himself to be possessed by the Spirit of God. He rejects the idea of being the Man who would be God. Instead, he embraces the idea of the Man who would be Child of God. 

 

The “passion” of Jesus is not about physical suffering. It is about Jesus surrendering himself to God’s will. It is about Jesus coming to realize that his own death is the only possible outcome for his life. His passion for life necessitated a passion for death….loving death in the same way he loved life. It was necessary for Jesus to EMBRACE his humanity, with all its limitations. 

 

The life of a child of God is a life of sin. As a child of God we give of ourselves without reservation and without hesitation. Consequently we fail to see every possible mistake we might make. And we make many of them. We get dirty. We acknowledge our shortcomings. And, by God’s grace, we jump back again into the mud.

 

We throw ourselves into life…and, simultaneously, we throw ourselves into the arms of Jesus.

 

What a wonderful life! What a beautiful death! We leave God with a tear in his eye…and a smile on his face….this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased! 

 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   -Contact Me-

 

 

We all see things in different ways. Help me to see things your way. I welcome  your questions and comments.   

 

    --- Jesse Shearin

 

 

 

 

P O Box 641
1609 Church Street
Scotland Neck, NC 27874

 

Telephone: 252-826-3767

 

Email:

jesse@jesseshearin.com