Servitude or Sonship?

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Have you ever experienced that kind of encouragement... the kind where you felt like you were fortified in your faith, wings to soar, or absolute courage to do something that perhaps is out of your comfort zone?  I wish I could do that for each of you.  Give you words of affirmation to meet you wherever you are at in your life and journey to uplift you and give you fortification to carry on.  

Recently the Lord has been fortifying me in my relationship with Him.  He has been revealing to me things that I have thought and held tightly to that perhaps were not healthy or not even what he intended our relationship to be or to look like.  I have experienced such encouragement and been uplifted and given freedom through my new understanding of Him and my relationship with Him.  

In a recent conversation with a new friend, he was relating a story of a conversation between two men, one-a muslim man, and the other-a Christian; where the Christian man asked the muslim man “who is God to you?” and the muslim man said, he is the sovereign King and I am his faithful servant.  

For a moment I thought, I believe that that is true, and as I sat and listened there was something that really stung me as I evaluated my own relationship with the Lord and couldn’t really identify what was wrong with that statement.  He IS after all the sovereign King.  In fact the Bible says…He is the King of all Kings.  He sits on His throne.  He is the just ruler.  Over and again in scripture God is referred to as “sovereign”, or the “sovereign Lord”.  He is sovereign; supreme, a ruler, possesses ultimate power.  These are true of God.  

Psalm 95:3 “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.”

The problem with the statement is not in my understanding of who God is.  It is my lack of understanding of who I am in relationship to the sovereign King.  

But then there came the conclusion to his illustration and he said the muslim man asked the Christian man “Who is God to you?” and his response was: “He is my loving father, and I am His beloved child”.  

Oh, man.  Yes!  That is the right answer!  That is the relationship I want with God.  

But, even more amazing AND encouraging is that scripture clearly shows that that is the relationship He wants with me and each of you.  A relationship of sonship. This is what He intends.  Not that we continue on in a spirit of bondage or slavery or servitude to Him, but that we enter into relationship with Him as his child, his heir, his beloved.  

This relationship, or statement in NO WAY compromises the FACT that He is and remains the sovereign King.  He is ruler, He possesses ultimate power, He is King above all Kings.  

But I am not just His servant.  Nor does He want our relationship with Him to be one  of only servitude.  In John 15:15 Jesus says “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” 

Does that give you hope and freedom and does it lift your head?

To know and believe that the KING of all KINGS has invited you into adoption as His child and heir.  His beloved.  Not his slave.  You are not in bondage to obedience to Him.  

Galations 4:4-7 says "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir."

[An important note to this scripture is that the terminology can sometimes feel that it is excluding women but actually the term is intentional in verse 5, that “we might receive adoption to sonship”.  The Greek word for “adoption to sonship” is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. ]  which means that the person adopted as a child of God receives the full inheritance and standing and importance of that which a male child would receive (at that time culturally) that a son would.  It is not exclusive or belittling to women, it is actually counter-culture and uplifting to women.  He is saying that our VALUE is the same…men and women.

For so long, I learned and believed that my service and obedience pleased the Lord, regardless of my relationship with Him, yet I have come to see that it is only in relationship with Him as my loving father that I can then offer to Him my sacrifice of obedience and service.    

Obedience comes as an outpouring of a thankful heart from a child of God to His loving Father.  

Obedience out of compulsion is not a sacrifice to the Lord, but rather a misunderstanding of relationship with (and relating to) Him in a worthy and desired manner.   What IS pleasing to Him is the communion and faith and love we seek to have with Him.   

Vs. 5 says He came to “redeem those under the law”.  Redeem means to make right, put back into right relationship with, to compensate for, to save and deliver from.  

That redeeming process makes right immediately, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, what was not right.  Specifically our relationship with Him.  When we are redeemed and adopted, the relationship is made right.  

However, there is still a process for us to experience and understand and live in the right standing that we have been given through faith in Jesus.   That process of redemption and refining is a life-long journey of seeking and knowing and understanding Him.  It is not immediate.  

I have worked in foster care and adoption as a social worker, on and off, for the past 17 years.  I know and have seen that when a child receives a warped kind of affection or is the victim of physical abuse, that is presented to them as love or feels like attention or care, that becomes what they interpret as love.  A child does not always, and probably typically, doesn’t understand that what they are experiencing is not a good or true representation of love or care.  But to them, that is what they know and find comfort in.  So even when you remove a child from harm or away from the proximity of neglect or abuse, they must re-learn what is good, and appropriate, and loving, in a healthy way.  And that takes a long time and patience and sincere understanding of how the mind works and develops.

When we adopted our son, he had spent nearly 2-years in an orphanage receiving care from medical staff, and workers, who were caring for dozens of children at a time.  He was fed and changed, and trained to some extent.  But any understanding he had of love and care was, at the most, limited.  When he would cry initially and wanted to be held or comforted he would approach with his back first…towards you.  Because that is how he was trained.  He was held and comforted perhaps to some extent, but in an effort to limit his attachment to the workers they taught the children to be held not chest to chest or face to face, but only with their back toward the care-giver.  We had to retrain him to learn about attachment, and dependence, and to be vulnerable.  Honestly, this is still a work in process for sure.  But when there are moments when he seeks comfort or is dependent on me as his mom or expresses affection…it is an amazing moment!  To witness and know that he is learning to be loved more fully and rightly.   

This is the same for us with our faith journey and story.  We have heard and learned many things over the course of our lives and relationship with God.  Some are good, some are not so good.  We learn them from others, in church, at home, we are accused of things by Satan.  He perpetuates our own striving and trying to earn favor.  

But, when we pursue God, and allow Him to teach us, through His redeeming work in our lives, what His love for us truly and fully is and what His desired relationship looks like, it fortifies us in who we are and what we are doing.  His love and affection for you is so great and so individual.  

Recently I was rereading the story of Jacob and Esau

In Genesis, Isaac and Rebekah (who had been unable to conceive for 20 years) give birth to twins.   Esau first, all red and hairy and Jacob second grasping at Esau’s heal.  Their father Isaac favored Esau and Rebekah favored Jacob.  When they grew older and in a moment of desperation and hunger Esau gave his birthright to Jacob (the younger brother) for a meal.  Later, in Genesis 27, Jacob is directed by his mother to steal the blessing from their ailing father, and after in 27:41, Esau vows to kill Jacob.  Jacob (at the insistence of his mother) leaves his home and marries Leah and then Rachel and starts a life away from Esau and his past. His inheritance increases as does his property and family.  But, he lives his life knowing and feeling that his relationship with his brother Esau is not right.  He lives in fear of Esau pursuing him and rightly avenging his losses.  Then Esau comes for Jacob.  Esau has finally found where he is living and is coming for him.  And Jacob scrambles to assemble his people anticipating that Esau is going to avenge and kill him.  

But when Esau approaches, he faces his brother Jacob and he embraces him and Jacob weeps into his brother neck.  In that miraculous moment their relationship is restored.  There is no more hiding or fearing.  Jacob has been found and forgiven….and is loved.  And Esau is freed from the pain of his past.  

Their relationship had not changed over the years.  They did not cease to be brothers.  But they ceased to live in right relationship with each other because of fear and striving. 

I love this story and the beautiful picture of how in a moment of love and forgiveness all relationship is made right.  I think this is a picture of how the Lord welcomes us into a full and right relationship with Him-that is living and believing  when we recognize that we have been trying to earn His favor.  He embraces us in the fullness of His love when we come to Him knowing what we deserve, which is death, and He compassionately gives us sonship through His love.  

Praying that you live and rest in the knowledge of His love for you!

XO,

A