In one of the presidential debates, Mitt Romney, everyone’s favorite Mormon (well, for me, second-favorite after Ken Jennings), stated “we are all children of the same God.” That’s a pretty common theme in American thought – that we’re all the same, with the same abilities, aptitudes, and capabilities.
And people eat this up – the idea that there is nothing at our core separating ourselves from each other.
But a few weeks ago I was flipping through the radio stations in the car and paused when I heard a preacher, as I am prone to do. This particular preacher, you could tell, was on the radio because he had a great voice. He was using his preaching voice – deep, clear, with a hint of an accent to make things interesting. And everyone in radioland loved him, including me.
Anyway, he was preaching out of the third chapter of the first epistle of John and specifically on the dichotomy John the Letter Sender draws between children of God and children of the devil:
3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children….10 This is how God’s children and the devil’s children are apparent: everyone who doesn’t practice righteousness is not from God, including the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister.
The preacher caught my attention because he was making such a clear distinction and contrast to the pop theology of Mitt Romney; for this preacher, some of us are God’s children while others are unmistakably children of the devil.
So which is it?
This is one of the most central, core pieces of our theology. What we believe about ourselves, what we believe about humanity – our theological anthropology – will set the bar for all your other theological thinking (even if you don’t think you think theologically!). Yes, our understanding of God is hugely important – but it is powerfully shaped by our understanding of ourselves.
So where do you land?
Are we born children of the devil? Utterly depraved. No good thing – no good thought! – can come from us. We are reprehensible monsters, not only capable but destined for evil. Our ancestors were created in God’s image, indeed, but that image has been so shattered and tattered that we dare not even think about it lest we find ourselves trapped in our overconfident arrogant state. There is nothing in us worth redeeming, making the grace of redemption nearly unbelievable.
Are we born children of God? Created as things of beauty, reflecting our creator’s own image. Unique amongst all creation with magnificent potential, bringing unmatched joy and satisfaction to God. Through no fault of our own as well as through terrible faults of our own, this image is distorted, faded, and shadowed. But, at our core, this image can still shine through, reminding us and others of the created glory and beauty of all humanity awaiting redemption. There is something in us worth redeeming, marked for redemption by the unmistakable grace of creation.