When my wife, Michelle, and I were talking about this idea of being adopted as God’s children, she reminded me of one of her favorite parts of the adoption ceremonies. At those adoption ceremonies one of the final components is that the judge reads the decree of adoption. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a decree of adoption states that:
“The person proposed to be adopted shall have all the rights of a child and heir of the adopting parent or parents and shall be subject to the duties of a child to him or them.”
Think about how that relates to our adoption as children of God. We have all the rights of a child in God’s family.
We’re not just staying in his house as a guest. We recently vacationed in Vermont, and we stayed at my cousin’s AirBnB. For the weekend we were living in his house. Yes, we’re extended family. He’s my cousin. But I’m not one of his children. Not an heir.
Our friend, Becka, lived with us for nine months, and she became very close with our family. We had house guests before, but never one who lived with us for nine months. So of course we got close, right? But still she wasn’t our child. We didn’t adopt her. We remain friends, but Becka doesn’t have the rights of our children.
But adopted children do! When my brother and sister-in-law adopted their son, Chase, his was one of the four adoptions I witnessed in a courtroom. All four adoptions involved a name change. The child’s last name was changed to that of their adopted parents. So Chase became Chase Kime. But in order to more deeply identify Chase with the family, my brother and sister-in-law went a step further. All four of my kids and all of my brothers’ kids have a middle name that is a family name. My brother and sister do too. You could say it is a kind of family tradition. The middle names can be first names of grandparents or middle names of parents. To make Chase just like the rest of the family, they allowed him to choose a family name for his middle name. Pretty cool, right? Well, he chose the family name that is arguably the least contemporary and coolest of all the male names in my family. My name? Nope. My middle name? Chase’s older brother Carson already had that. He chose my dad’s middle name. Alfred.
And with that, Chase was deeply entrenched in the family.
When you are adopted, you take on the name, the rights, and the privileges of your new parents. And that is what we do with God. We fully identify as God’s, both his father and mother aspects, and everything about him.
That means we need to keeping asking what God is like. What IS God like? How much do you ask that question? How often do you think about God? As children of God, let us think about what God is like, and who God is, so that we can not only know him, but fully embrace our identity as his adopted children. Then we make the choices to live out our identity as children of God. For example, consider what Jesus said about this in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:9-12, when he said the following:
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
We, though we are not perfectly loving like God, know how to give good gifts to our children, Jesus says. How much more God in heaven gives good gifts to those who ask. That’s what God is like!
Thus we have the wonderful opportunity to be like God, if our core identity flows from his, and this is why Jesus said what he said next. The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, just as God loves us, we are to love others.
Or consider reading Matthew 18:23-35. God is forgiveness, we learn in Jesus’ parable. Adopted into his family, we take on his identity, allowing the forgiveness he first gives us to them flow through us to our families, workplaces, and throughout our churches. Who do you need to forgive?
Jesus also once said, “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” This sets the standard that our identity is so linked with him. Perfection sounds intimidating and impossible, but my hunch is that Jesus was simply saying that our goal is to be like our heavenly father. How do we do that? Check back in to the next post!