In Paul’s earliest letter to the church at Galatia he says that people are no longer slaves, who are forced to keep God’s law. They are children – precious and unconditionally loved by God. And, therefore, they are not bound by God’s law. But, because God loves them so deeply and they know this, they will find that they naturally want to do God’s will.
There’s clearly a huge difference between being someone’s slave and being someone’s child.
We were thinking about this recently at a Church Holy ‘Away Morning’ on the Holy Spirit.
When we receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, things change in our lives. And one of the most wonderful changes we experience is in our understanding of our identity.
We are no longer slaves
We are no longer, as Paul puts it, ‘enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world,’ we are free. And, more than that, we ‘receive adoption as children’ of God. Paul goes on. He says, ‘because you are children, God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child and, if a child, then also an heir.’
As we reflected on this together – that we are all sons and daughters of God, all heirs to his kingdom - it occurred to me that this also means we are brothers and sisters.
I looked around at the dozen or so people with me in the room and thought of them truly as my brothers and my sisters. And recognised the difference it makes when we do this.
At some churches, members of the congregation address each other as ‘Brother John’ or ‘Sister Florence’ and I think this is a really good thing to do – whether we say the brother/sister part out loud or just in our heads.
We are members of the same family
We are one family in Christ, we are all children of the same heavenly Father, so let’s start to act that way.
Treat your neighbour, treat the person next to you at church, as you would treat your biological brother or sister. Know their name, find out about their lives. Care about their lives, listen.
When we do this, we start to see the people around us as God sees them – as precious and worthy of our unconditional love.
And, as we do this, we are drawn closer together and experience, as St Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, ‘the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’
Bringing healing and peace to our world starts here. It starts with recognising that we are all, every one of us, children of God and members of the same, and one and only, family.