We Want To Know Who You Are
I remember the first time I was with a group of fellow clergy and the District Superintendent wanted us to introduce ourselves and share who we are. I was newly appointed to my first church —and frankly, I didn’t know what to say. As the other pastors shared, I heard a lot of “I’m serving at____”…”I’m married to____”…”We have ___ children”.
Still not certain what my response should be, I was thinking of my churches and the relationship we were developing when it was suddenly my “turn”. When I opened my mouth, I was shocked at what came out—“I’m Linda Stoddard…and I have 150 ‘kids’”. There was silence—except for the sound of eyes popping and jaws dropping—and then chuckles! Of course, I hurried to explain I meant the members in my churches were LIKE my kids…
We’ve all been in those situations where someone inevitably asks—“Who are you? Tell us about yourself.” Most of us stammer a bit, share our name, maybe our marital or parental status, where we work (IF we work). But for the most part, we have a problem “defining” ourselves to others. We don’t want to sound boastful or condescending. We don’t want to share too much, but we don’t want to share so little that we will face a barrage of personal questions either.
Who Were the Galatians?
The Galatians were Greeks who produced those great philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Boys were generally educated in classes beginning at the age of seven—and they were trained in the military as well. Girls were mostly educated at home by their mothers in homemaking skills such as cooking, weaving, sewing, and such.
As part of the Roman Empire, the women of Greece enjoyed a more expanded role than many of their neighbors. Because the menfolk were often gone to war, the Greek women were allowed even more freedom at times. They could own land, run businesses, free slaves, inherit wealth and even hold a paying job. Although not “full” citizens of Rome, they enjoyed many of the same freedoms that their husbands did. Had the women of Galatia engaged in a “Tell us about yourself” circle, there could have been those who defined themselves as mothers, but also as shop keepers, sellers of cloth, weavers, bakers, and more.
The men would have described themselves as soldiers…sailors…merchants of spices or housewares…potters…sculptors…even philosophers.
But they all would have struggled, like we do, if confronted with that most difficult of questions—“Tell us about yourself…”
No Longer a Slave
It was hard for the Greeks and Romans to fully grasp the concepts of freedom that Paul was trying to introduce in his preaching. Many of them HAD slaves and knew what it meant to be owned and controlled by another person. Paul explained how, in the Jewish realm, strict obedience to the “letter of the Law” could also create slaves of a sort…and heads started to nod in agreement.
The women especially understood. Although they possessed many “freedoms” in Galatia, they were still controlled by a male-dominated society. The liberties they enjoyed were only those that the men allowed—and many of those freedoms only existed during times of war and military conquests.
But as Paul continued to teach, the entire church began to get a better picture and know who they really were in GOD’S eyes. As we heard last week, Christ has set us ALL free and the demand of strict obedience to the Law has been removed.
Today’s Galatians reminder—indeed, most of the fourth chapter of this letter to the Church—is a refresher course in recapturing our identity as children of God.
In the final verses of chapter three, Paul points out to the Galatians—there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
After pointing out who they are NOT, Paul goes on to spell out who they are—you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:7) The Message paraphrase puts it this way—if you are a child, you’re also an heir—with complete access to the inheritance. (Galatians 4:7)
Not Just a Child of God…
It is one thing to be part of the family tree, but it is totally different to be an “heir”. If you are an heir, you are tied to the family by more than mere genetics. Your connection to the family has purpose. You know who you are and where you fit in. You are no longer living simply for yourself—there are others who are looking up to you, counting on you for direction, protection, and encouragement.
Paul’s concern was that the Galatians were losing sight of who they really were and allowing themselves to once again succumb to the pressures of the society around them. They were turning their backs on the freedom they had discovered as part of the family of God and were beginning to revert to their former selves…self-centered, separated by distinctions of sex and race and creed. The Galatians were becoming less than what Paul saw them as—less than what God had created them to be.
In today’s Scripture, Paul is reminding the Galatians about who they are. If we back up to verse six of the fourth chapter (as recorded in The Message), Paul makes a point of reminding them—
We have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir— with complete access to the inheritanceGalatians 4:6 (The Message)
…But an Heir
“Know WHO you are”—Paul is saying. You are God’s children—inheritors of all the promises of God and His kingdom. He made the same point to the Romans in the eighth chapter of his letter to them—
Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship, and by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.Romans 8:14-17
Who ARE we as followers of Jesus Christ? Paul tells us we are the children—the heirs—of God. By definition, that means that everything that belongs to Jesus belongs to us—all the rights, the responsibilities, the privileges of God’s Kingdom are ours because we’ve been adopted into God’s family.
Chosen By God, Himself
Peter, in his first letter to the church, (1 Peter 2:9) expanded the answer to the question. He would remind us—
- You are a chosen people – That means that God hand-picked us
- A royal priesthood – not ordinary, but suitable to serve the King Himself
- A holy nation (again, something beyond the ordinary. Holy means set aside as special–sanctified for God’s use)
- We are, according to Peter, a people belonging to God.
As the psalmist considered his relationship to the Almighty, he marveled aloud in the 139th chapter, verse 14—I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:1 KJV)
This Changes Things!
Psalm 8 has always spoken powerfully to me of who I am in the overall scheme of God’s creation. But this week The Message paraphrase, gave me a whole new perspective on who I really am.
God, brilliant lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble. I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, “Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?” Yet we've so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden's dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild-- birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps. God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world. Psalm 8 (The Message)
We are where we are—WHO we are—because of Who GOD is! We are His children—because He chose us to be, His set-aside, special people—because HE deemed it so and His heirs—co-heirs with Jesus Christ—because of the cross.
Like the Galatians, we are NO LONGER SLAVES—BUT CHILDREN OF GOD.