So far, in St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, we’ve heard that by God’s grace and desire, 1. we are saints—not because of what we do, but because God says so; 2. we’ve heard that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer; 3. and most recently Paul reminded us that we are chosen by God before we ever managed to do anything—“chosen” is our default identity.
Next, Paul invites us to lean into that fact a little deeper. He writes that “God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
This is such an important thing for us to understand. It’s true that we are chosen, but not just for a task, or to be in on a secret, or because we have special abilities (which is true of each of us, it’s just not the reason we are chosen). But God chose us for relationship. God “destined us for adoption as his children, through Jesus Christ.” God’s choice for us is to gather us into God’s family, into the life of the Trinity—the eternal intimacy of Father, Son, and Spirit. We are meant to be in on what God is up to; we’re part of God’s family business.
If you’ve been hanging around the church for any amount of time at all, you’ll be familiar with this idea that we are God’s children. For many of us, it’s a comforting image. God as our divine parent, who—as Jesus says—gives good gifts to his children, is a wonderful reality. But it’s more than just relational. In the fist century, when St. Paul was writing, who your family was—and in particular who your dad was—made all the difference. It defined who you were, and what you could do with your life.
When we understand God as our divine Parent (Father is symbolic language; God transcends our ideas of gender, God is not an old man in the sky. But it’s important language because it reminds us that ours isn’t a God who’s vague and distant—ours is the God loves and can be loved in return, ours is the God of agency and action), what we’re saying is that it’s who and how God is that defines us, and nothing less. We are defined by extravagant, creative, redemptive love. We are defined by God’s authority, God’s standing, God’s desire for us and for all things.
This isn’t a new idea. It’s the way it was always meant to be. The Genesis story tells us that we are made in the image of God—that we’re meant to be like God in the world, to look like God, to have God’s mannerisms. We are other than God, but we bear the likeness of God.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time remembering that it’s God whose identity shapes mine. I tend to define myself according to other metrics. Sometimes I forget that my identity has anything to do with God at all—I define myself by my job, or my family, or my successes and failures. Or worse, I let the world around me dictate who I am.
The Genesis story also reminds us that we have this abiding capacity to chase after some other identity than the very good one in which God made us. That’s the root of what the Church calls sin, and it messes up our relationship with God—and from there, with ourselves, each other, and creation.
In Jesus, we see how far God will go to repair that relationship, and as a result to begin to repair all of our relationships. Instead of setting us adrift, God came among us to gather us in—to adopt us into God’s family. All because it’s God’s good pleasure to have us close.
You, my friend, are a child of God. Because it pleases the God who made the universe to have it that way. You are the object of God’s good pleasure. You are eternally beloved.
And you are made to bear that love in and for the world.
May it be so. Amen.