Wednesday, January 13, 2010

fellow heirs

The more I study Islam, the more grateful I become for the doctrine of adoption.

While Islam encourages care of the needy, adoption -- where it means completely assimilating a child into the family and giving him a new name -- is prohibited. One of the most significant explanations I've found is that changing family identities messes with rules of inheritance. A child may not get the inheritance he deserves, or he may get more than he deserves (from the adopted father).

This seems like such a simple, practical difference. But the more I think about it the more it underscores the exceedingly beautiful role of adoption in Christian salvation. Thank God we don't get the inheritance we deserve!
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
-- Romans 8:14-17
* * *

In 2009, I reflected a lot on the costliness of friendship.

To truly extend love and friendship to someone, you must become vulnerable. You must allow the other person some control over your time and space. You must be honest, even when that means exposing your weaknesses and faults.

That's the difference between "charity," as we normally think about it, and friendship. It is easy to throw money at somebody's problem. Or to somehow package your "help" in a box that you drop off and run away from and hope everything works out okay. And there's a place for that kind of charity; we can't all be everywhere all the time, helping everyone we know with everything wrong that comes along.

But friendship is a different kind of investment. One of the first things you notice when you surrender to being a friend is that life is messy. Not everything has a solution. Sometimes the only thing a real friend can do is be there, "shewing himself friendly," sticking closer than a brother. And that's more expensive, in the long run, than any kind of charity. It costs. It hurts. It takes humility.

That's the kind of friend Jesus is.

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He came to know those weaknesses. He came to live with us.

Jesus didn't appear on the earth, do His saving work, and hurry back to heaven, satisfied by a charitable act for a disgraced humanity and relieved to breathe free after the stench of our groaning planet. He came and spoke our language and sat at our tables and ate our food and wore our clothes and walked our streets and mourned at our funerals and feasted at our weddings.

He didn't come to do us a favor. He came to love us.

And when His ultimate sacrifice was finished, when He could have demanded eternally our humble servitude in gratefulness for His lavish generosity, He issued the greatest invitation of all:

He invited us to join the family.
In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

-- Ephesians 1:5-14

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