All In the Family

(Romans 8: 12-17)


I was blessed to have been born in 1952, making me a Baby Boomer, one of those kids born after the Second World War up to around 1964.  What that meant for most of us is that we were born into large extended families with many aunts and uncles and a whole bunch of cousins to go along with our siblings.  The Rosekrans side of the family, committed Methodists, was pretty tame, but I really did enjoy the family get togethers my Methodist minister grandfather would take me to in the hills of downstate New York.  My step-grandmother would caution me to watch where I stepped or sat as just about all of her brothers-in-law were tobacco chewers.  But the simple food and spontaneous fiddle, guitar, and washboard music really made an impression on me.  The Ukrainian side of the family was a different matter.  These people liked to fight and argue just as much as they loved and laughed.  You never knew when a seemingly calm gathering would erupt into an impassioned argument over what I could never figure, but when it was all over, they’d laugh and go searching for a homemade dessert.  If you fought one, you fought them all because we kept it all in the family and would do absolutely anything for another family member because, quite simply, we were family and that was that.  I truly miss those days and my grandmother’s homemade pies, especially the cherry pies.


And keeping it all in the family is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in our scripture reading for this morning.  To put this into proper context you have to go back a few verses where Paul says: Now the way we live is based on the Spirit, not based on selfishness.  People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit.  The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace.  The Apostle is talking about a paradigm shift, a whole new way of looking at life and how we interact with people.  He says that people who are self-centered, only focused upon themselves and what is good for them and theirs, aren’t able to please God.  He says that if Christ is in you, the Spirit is your life because of God’s righteousness, but the body is dead because of sin.


So then, brothers and sisters, he says, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness.  If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die.  But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live.  At this point Paul’s readers are thinking oh-oh, an obligation, this is going to require me doing something, giving up something of mine for someone else.  I’m not sure I like the sounds of this.  But then Paul says: All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters.  Paul is playing the ”Family of God” card and points out to them that they didn’t receive a spirt of slavery to lead them back again into fear but that they received a Spirit that shows them that they have been adopted as his children.  The Apostle is telling them, telling us, that the Spirit is no harsh taskmaster that coerces God’s people into doing what they don’t want to do.  The Spirit of God is not a spirit of slavery that leads us back again into fear, the fear of death and sin, but instead is like the loving parent that empowers God’s liberated people to live as God wills and confirms to them that they, that we, are indeed God’s beloved children.  God is not like that angry parent whom we have pushed to the edge who puts his or her hands on their hips and yells: “Because I said so!”  I don’t think we can make God mad enough to use our middle name when he calls us no matter how we try him.


Paul goes on to say that with this Spirit, we cry, Abba, Father.  This same spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children.  He then says: But if we are children, we are also heirs.  We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.  This is a big but, and if we are to be the adopted co-heirs with Jesus Christ, we are family, and family sticks together.  This means that we are to live as Jesus did—serving others, giving up one’s own rights, resisting pressures to conform to the world—which always exacts a price, a price non-believers will not pay.  We can now regard sin’s appeal as dead and lifeless, enabling us to ignore temptation when it comes.  And, because we are God’s children, we share in great treasurers as co-heirs.  God has already given us his best gifts: his Son, his Holy Spirit, forgiveness, and eternal life; and he encourages us to ask him for whatever we need as long as we ask for it in his name.


So, this liberation that we now experience begins with the saving action of God that has been accomplished by God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, and is mediated by the Spirit who leads us in our lives of love and service.  This liberation is the new basis for our lives, displacing the sin and selfishness that once ruled over us.  The Spirit has ended the reign of fleshly selfishness for those in Christ because the indwelling Spirit works a moral transformation that empowers us to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law which is next to impossible for those who don’t have this family support.  In other words, we may now live in accordance with God’s will—the requirement of the law—by fulfilling it through love, even though we are not bound to its every dictate.  We do it out of love, because we want to please our parent, not because we have to or else.


It’s the Spirit that gives life to our mortal bodies and being spiritually minded means overcoming the deadness of the body and experiencing life and peace as God intended it for his children.  This is the resurrection of life and as such, followers of the way of Jesus Christ are not simply to bide their time awaiting the resurrection but are instead to join the Spirit in an assault against sin and all that’s wrong with the world because when you fight one of us you fight all of us.  It’s all in the family, the family of God.


Let us pray.


Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.  Gracious and loving God, how we praise you for the gift of your Holy Spirit who brings it all together in our relationship with you and our adopted brother Jesus Christ.  Our words cannot express the joy we feel being adopted into your family, a family built on love for you, love for self, and love for others.  Move us by your Spirit to put family first as we do all we can in making your creation where all of our family members can live in love and peace until that day that your Son returns to reign supreme.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

All In the Family


If we are to be the adopted co-heirs with Jesus Christ, we are family, and family sticks together.


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