This is the second post in my series on everyone being a child of God:
- Why Everyone is a Child of God
- Implications of Everyone Being a Child of God
- What if We Disown Our Father in Heaven?
- Doesn’t the NT also talk about becoming children of God??
My first post contains most of the biblical reasons I think everyone is a child of God. I also cited some prominent, conservative evangelicals who also appear to hold this position―primarily to show that it can’t be dismissed as a liberal interpretation! Anyway, in this post, I’ll explain some of the significant implications of this view.
Family implies at least commonality, connection, and shared attributes. However, often it’s even more than that―across cultures and history―it’s often included loyalty, intimate relationships, lifelong friendships, and mutual dependability. I realise we aren’t perfect and neither are our families, but this highlights further qualities that we want our families to have―compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. Even if you have a terrible fight with a sibling and don’t talk for years, it’s impossible to de-sibling them―you never cease being related.
Now consider how this should apply to our universal family:
- Dehumanising or killing our brother should be abhorrent.
- Seeing our sister being prostituted or trafficked should spur us into action.
- Treating our brother as a slave shouldn’t even be contemplated.
- Lusting after our sister should be icky.
- Befriending our brother should be considered time well spent.
- Showing kindness to our sister should be a joy.
I could go on and on… basically, when treating others we should ask ourselves, “Would I do that to my little sister or brother?”
As I pass people walking through town, in my head I often say, “Hello brother! Hello sister!” (perhaps I’d be brave enough to say it out loud if I wasn’t an introvert). I honestly find it challenges the way I look at people. For example, I feel more compassion for rough/tough looking people. I feel less judgmental of people in suits (contrary to my rural upbringing bias). It generally makes me feel more friendly, even towards people I’ve never met. I can’t write anyone off as I can’t de-sibling them.
While you might naturally get along with some siblings more easily than others, I think most people see the wisdom of not showing favouritism between them. That we should aim to love and care for all of them equally. When this gets applied to everyone, it should decrease sexism, racism, classism, xenophobia, etc. and, conversely, improve justice. A king should be treated as equally valuable as a beggar. On this theme of justice, Boersma points out that:
[The OT ethic of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Ex. 21:24)] assumes the equal value of all human beings. Ideally, to steal from a foreigner warrants the same punishment as if the same amount was stolen from the king since the two are of equal value… The ethical treatment of humans as in the image of God appear in passages like after the flood account:
“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Gen. 9:6).
Because all people are in this image, all people are God’s children, and thus, all people deserve dignity such that no one can be, at the very least, murdered due to their lack of value to another and the murder [sic] get away with it. The notion that all people are God’s children, in his image, forms the moral bottom line of the Old Testament ethic.
Spencer Boersma, All People are God’s Children
The concept of the universal family subverts and undermines systems based inequality. It’s no surprise that:
Gregory, in what is considered “the most scathing critique of slaveholding in all of antiquity,” attacked the institution as incompatible with humanity’s creation in the image of God [the previous post explains why I see image here synonymous with universal family].
Dustin Bruce, The First Abolitionist: Gregory of Nyssa on Slavery
Undoubtedly influenced by Macrina, his older sister:
Gregory writes of the time in which “Macrina persuaded her mother to give up her customary mode of living … and the services of her maids [servants] … and to put herself on a level with the many by entering into a common life with her maids, making them her sisters and equals rather that her slaves and underlings.”
Eric Denby, The First Abolitionist? Gregory of Nyssa on Ancient Roman Slavery
In the last post of this series, I’ll explain why I think the NT further encourages this trajectory, especially for the slightly “older” children of God―Christians―although we often don’t act our “age”!
Reminding Everyone That They Are God’s Children
Paul unpacks implications of everyone being a child of God in his famous sermon in Athens:
God has done all this [creating and sustaining everyone], so that we will look for him and reach out and find him. He isn’t far from any of us, and he gives us the power to live, to move, and to be who we are. “We are his children,” just as some of your poets have said.
Since we are God’s children, we must not think that he is like an idol made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn’t like anything that humans have thought up and made. In the past, God forgave all this because people did not know what they were doing. But now he says that everyone everywhere must turn to him.
Acts 17:27-30, CEV
As Boersma puts it:
Paul is saying, “You are God’s children, don’t debase yourselves worshiping idols. You were meant for more!”
Spencer Boersma, All People are God’s Children