What happens when our conception of God fundamentally changes?
In the time of Jesus calling God “Dad” was radical, or at least we think it was radical for the time. To be honest about the research we cannot really tell if it was shocking or not.
It is not a normal title for God in Hebrew literature, but it was not completely unheard of either.
The unique thing about the title of “Dad” is that it is a keystone to the whole arch of Jesus’ teaching. His concept of Dad was compassionate, loving, merciful, and quick to forgive. Both the gospels and letters teach that part of that teaching is that we are God’s children, or we can be.
Jesus is God’s son, that is undisputed by anyone in the Christian faith. It is a pillar of doctrine. You are in or out of the definition of being a Christian based simply on the answer to that question of belief, among a very few others.
Leaving behind for a moment what that means to classical theology, in the Hebrew tradition it meant that Jesus would have the character of God. The same way that when my father says, “Boy, you are your mother’s son,” what he means is that I have some characteristic of my mother, like stubbornness, for example.
Jesus has God’s character. This is an aspect of what we call incarnation in theology. Jesus makes “carne” or meaty what God is in spirit. This notion that Jesus embodies God is another key theological idea that lies at the center of Christian thought. But at the least it means that Jesus has God’s character.
In the prologue of the Gospel of John we are told that because of the Logos we are capable of becoming children of God, not through the desire of a man or the strength or will but through the abiding of the Holy Spirit. This is right up front in the gospel, literally and literarily. We become children of God as we abide in his Spirit and as his Spirit abides in us.
We are to take on his character, just as Jesus had God’s character. The logic of this is ironclad, and once you see it, you see it throughout the New Testament.
Therefore if grace is God’s character, then we are to have grace. We are to give freely forgiveness, things, provision, love. This is all in the Sermon on the Mount, but it is also the consistent message throughout the text, stated in different ways.
Think seriously about that for a moment. We are supposed to be a people of grace if we are God’s people, Jesus’s disciples, embodying the Holy Spirit. We are to be generous, forgiving, merciful, and loving.
If you know real Christians, you know people like this.
The question before us is “How do we shape a people like this?”
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his staff have produced a Way of Love curricula that locates this in a series of practices. I have taught and written about this very thing throughout this blog and my churches. This is the question of our times.
How do we become a people of the Way?
The Rule of Grace is one way to put the process, as you will find with a search of this sight. It is the way we inculcate a people of the transaction into the way of Christ.
It begins with knowing God and continues with loving.