In Chapter 19 entitled Sons of God in this same book, Knowing God, J.I. Packer talked about how difficult it is to bring an adopted child into your home and to what great lengths adoptive parents have to go in order to develop a relationship with that child. He says:
“The establishing of the child’s status as a member of the family is only the beginning. The real task remains: to establish a genuinely filial relationship between your adopted child and yourself. It is this, above all, that you want to see. Accordingly, you set yourself to win the child’s love by loving the child. You seek to excite affection by showing affection. So with God. And throughout our life in this world, and to all eternity beyond, he will constantly be showing us, in one way or another, more and more of his live, and thereby increasing our love to him continually. The prospect before the adopted children of God is an eternity of love.”
Reading this passage brought to mind the great lengths adoptive parents must go to in order to counteract the false beliefs these broke children have who come to them. What great patience, what long suffering love, what great compassion, understanding and mercy they need in order to deal with all the mistrust these tiny eyes look up at them with. Adoptive parents, must repeatedly show these broken children what true love is, how loving and protective good authority is and should be towards them. I have heard a couple of stories where couples have had to tightly hold small children in their arms in a bear hug as the child fought against them for long periods of time every day in order to teach the neglected and abandoned child how to bond and receive love. They would rock them, sing to them, whisper and caress them until they no longer fought back against them but slowly learned to trust and respond to their love.
In the same way, many of us come to God not understanding what a loving Father looks like and come to Him with eyes looking up full of mistrust. As adopted children, we have found ourselves in His presence, unwilling and ungrateful recipients of His favor. We mistrust His authority. We initially fight against Him, against following His ways. We may hide and avoid Him thinking only of punishment and damnation not understanding He is offering us life. We doubt His good intentions towards us. We test His unconditional love to see if it is genuine or not, strong or weak. We fight giving up our independence, our self-reliance to be dependent and led by Him alone. We must go through a long phase of learning how to be a child and relate to God as our Father.
I never thought about God’s love from the perspective of adoptive parents before reading this. But as I did, I could almost feel God’s loving arms around me, understanding completely how difficult it was for me to trust Him and assuring me He is most patient and most willing to go the distance to enable me to know His love and affection and be assured of my position as His child in His home for eternity. He will never abandon or kick any of us out of His home. He will never return us to the streets or give us to another family member to deal with. Once He has us, He has us for keeps, we are His. He will pursue us to the ends of eternity to lovingly bring us back when we wander.
His grip on us may initially be one way, but how He encourages us to grip Him as He has gripped us. To lay a hold of Him as He has laid a hold of us. He invites us to abide and dwell with Him as He has abode and dwells with us. His is not just merely an invitation to see Him, to see his dwelling, visit Him and build an acquaintance with Him. No He bids us to dwell with Him and enjoy the most intimate of relationships with Him by taking the position of His child in this household and knowing Him as Father.
I would have settled to be His servant, to have a small corner in the kitchen of His dwelling to enjoy His safety, his provision, protection and bounty, the scraps of His table. I would have willingly served at His feet to dwell with Him that would have been more then enough to serve such a King as Him, but He won’t settle for such a relationship, instead He offers adoption, the right to become His child. He washes us and dresses us with robes of His own righteousness. He washes our feet. He gives us a seat at His own table, our cups run over. He gladly pours out His love upon us. He gladly serves us. We are not a burden, we are His joy. He delights in us as a father delights in watching His child.
God could have forgiven our sins through the atoning work of his Son, Jesus Christ and let us walk out of His courtroom and that would have been an offer overflowing with grace. We would have been clean and debt free before him because of the work of his Son. That would have been enough to save us from His righteous wrath and judgment. We could have lived as servants in his Kingdom. Gratefully and joyfully even. Yet, God the Father went beyond this and extended to us the unfathomable, to those who believe in his Son He gave the right to become children of God. He has held out his hand to us with the offer to become his child, dwell with him forever, know and interact with Him daily, recipients of his unending love, enjoying all the benefits his name covers us with, with a promise of a future inheritance even that we can’t fathom. This is our new position, our new favor we enjoy even now in this life, as children of God.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. . (1 John 3:1-2, Romans 8:18-19, 2 Timothy 2:11-13)
Let me end with one final quote from J.I. Packer found just a short distance down from the last. He states:
There are no distinctions of affection in the divine family. We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved. It i!s like a fairy story – the reigning monarch adopts waifs and strays to make princes of them. But, praise God, it is not a fairy story: it is a hard and solid fact, founded on the bedrock of free and sovereign grace. This, and nothing less than this, is what adoption means. No wonder John cries, “Behold, what manner of love!” When once you understand adoption your heart will cry the same.