Thursday, October 10, 2013

Children of God

There is something very powerful about looking at the face of a child. In their eyes, we often see beauty, joy, and wonder. And if we take time to look just a little bit closer, we will recognize the handiwork of that beauty, joy, and wonder.

Found on the opening pages of the Bible, we discover in Genesis 1 that human beings are made in the image of God. The United Methodist Social Principles affirm this account of creation and speak to its implications: We believe in the "inestimable worth of each individual," and that "all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God." Such value given to human beings by God, and recognized by The United Methodist Church shapes how we view persons and how we treat them. 

In United Methodist circles, many persons go one step further and affirm persons as being children of God. However, Scripture, as well as our own teachings are somewhat ambiguous whether this title, and this identity is available for all persons, or reserved for only baptized persons or Christians.

I believe every human being is a child of God, and that creation affirms this status. Through God giving us life, and creating us in God's own image, the question of who we are, is answered by knowing whose we are. The answer to that question is: we belong to God. The greatest affirmation of this for me came through the arrival of my own child. She is not a child of the devil, she is not the child of a stranger; she is my wife and I's child, and she is God's child.

Even though God has claimed us as God's own, affirming this reality for ourselves and living into it, is something that takes time, God's grace, and our initiative. Through the guiding of the Holy Spirit we are invited to claim God as our eternal parent, to trust in God's Son as our Savior, and to become sons and daughters of God. And regardless of where we find ourselves (or others) on this faith journey, God's seal upon our lives remains. Our identity as a child of God does not erase the mistakes we make and the sins we commit, but it does trump them.

When looking at the face of a child, we seem to be more able to see the image of God in them, as well as understand what things in their life might be causing brokenness within them. But if we look at the face of a perpetrator, an unpopular politician, or ruthless dictator, we may struggle to affirm that he or she is a child of God. In the midst of the Syrian crisis, recognizing President Bashar Assad as a child of God is counter-intuitive and even scandalous for many people, yet he is a child of God. President Assad has worth and value, and he is loved by God. When we remember this truth, when we remember that childhood face (Bashar is on the left) I suspect we will be much closer to loving him in the way that God loves him.

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