33 Q. Why is he called God’s “only begotten Son”
when we also are God’s children?
A. Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God.^1
We, however, are adopted children of God—
adopted by grace through Christ.^2
^1 John 1:29;Heb. 1:2
^2 Rom. 8:15;Eph. 1:[5-]6
34 Q. Why do you call him “our Lord”?
not with gold or silver,
but with his precious blood—
he has set us free
from sin and from the tyranny of the devil,
and has bought us,
body and soul,
to be his very own.^1
^1 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:9; 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23
Lord’s Day 13 (Q/A 33-34)
“Being a Child”
This week, and the two preceding weeks leading to this one, have been heavy. So much is on the line. There is a decisive debate that is occurring in the United States and around the world as attention is placed on Syria and President Obama’s intent to use a military strike in response to the use of chemical weapons allegedly by the Syrian government, which resulted in the indiscriminate death of hundreds of Syrians, including many children.
I’ve been saddened by the deterioration of a bona fide protest by the Syrian people against their own government two years ago that has spiraled into utter tragedy and exhibitionistic violence that is senseless and meaningless. I grieve the death of so many, the reports I received when our moderatorial delegation was in Lebanon last May and met some pastors who risked their lives to travel from their churches in Syria to tell their stories of survival, and watching neighbors die, and countless churches and mosques turned into rubble.
As a father, I am responsible for interpreting the world to my young sons, even as I have to have them exposed to the world. It’s a delicate balance. It requires prayer. It’s overwhelming for me, and it’s overwhelming for them because it’s a lot to receive. What I’ve observed over the last year is that their prayer bandwidth has expanded as they see much more of the world outside of Middlesex, NJ, as we have family discussions at the dining table, and as we bring prayers about our fragile world.
What the fragility and instability of our world brings me to is back to the foundation of who I am, who we are. To be in solidarity with the children, and to be in solidarity with my own children, is to claim my own childhood, to be childlike in seeing the world where I must come before our God in prayerful trust, confidence, with the tears in my heart, with the anguish I feel in my soul at being powerless in not being able to stop the violence that continues as I type this reflection.
Q/A 33 drives home for us that our belonging-ness to God is so connected to Jesus Christ, as God’s only natural son, with great intention. Our heavenly Father loves His Son, of course. And therefore, anyone connected – adopted – with His Son, has intentionally been chosen, that great effort, great effort has been expended to bring you and I into the family, into the relationship that the Father and the Son share.
When I consider Syria and when I consider the children – the ones who have survived, the ones who have died – and consider my own children, and my own state of being a child – I must place all of them, all of us, myself included – into the hands and heart of our heavenly Father. As an adopted child of God, I am reminded again and again to go back to the One who adopted me, who saw from the beginning that I have nothing, that I am powerless, that on our own, we’d be in the wilderness – forsaken and forgotten. Our adoption in Christ is never a state of being removed from the trials of life or the hard realities of it; our adoption in Christ is to anchor our childhood to the parenthood of God.
Q/A 34 hits the nail on the head. We are so powerless and we are so precious, that God moves heaven and earth, God as Christ, leaves heaven to descend to earth, to redeem us, to free us. When the temptation of human nature is to respond to utter violence by inflicting more violence, or to retaliate with more words and wars – we are in desperate need to re-direct our heart’s and soul’s course. When we are set on a glidepath of being wayward children whether individually, as a family unit, a community, a group, a state, a whole nation, a civilization — we are in definite need of a One who can take it all – heaven and earth, who can move mountains and hearts. The One who holds us all and this fragile world is “our Lord,” the Lord, Jesus the Christ.
Our Lord is not a theoretical, abstract, unreachable sovereign ruler who lords over us. Connecting Q/A 34 to Q/A 33, He is both our Lord and the Son of God, through whom we are intentionally adopted, whose love is unshakeable, who did not make a mistake in loving us, in setting a course to hold us and this fragile world in His care.
What we are called to do as adopted children, freed by our Lord to live in and with the love of God, is to pray and serve with childlike trust. And as with a child, to ask our heavenly parent – Why, Father? How, Father? How much longer, Father? We need your help. Thank you.