Romans 8:14, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” What a stunning, humbling, and joyous idea this is. The verb in the sentence is the key here. To be led implies what is necessary to be a child of God. But in this age of narcissism and defiance, where so many believe that the self, alone, is the final arbiter of everything from identity to truth, this verb more often than not, stirs up a kind of horror, mindless rage.

Those who have come to know the love of God personally, those who understand all that is good, true, and beautiful comes from the loving will of God, submit to that love not as slaves to a vengeful overlord, but as children to a loving and doting Father who loves them enough to give them their freedom to choose him, or not. These recognize, too, that this love is so great that it cannot be destroyed by our defiance. Rather, it remains patient and enduring, it is always kind and merciful. This Father forgives freely, and forgets completely. He is the Father of all who have been prodigal, the One who rushes out to throw his arms around his returning child, welcoming him/her home with a celebration.

When we give ourselves over to the Spirit of God, we do not find limitations. We do not find the fear a slave has toward a subjective and arbitrary master. We find, rather, true freedom. The freedom to love. We find ourselves adopted by a Father whose love is tender and compassionate and full of faithful concern for us. We find ourselves loved by a Father who willingly gives us his all. We see this love in Jesus. In Jesus we see the Father. In Jesus we come to know the depth and the quality of Father’s self-giving love for his children. Most importantly, in following the Spirit of God, we find our true selves. We discover our truest identity, not as male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, but as his own chosen and adopted children. When, in the freedom of love, we choose to be led by the Spirit of God, we become his beloved children and therefore we also become his heirs.

Of course, this is no fairy tale. We know that we live in the reality of the present age as well. We are not free from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” The world we live in is still fallen and tortured by sin. Selfishness and guile still thunder and threaten us from every direction, including from within. For we, too, are subject to sin, and to the temptations to foolishly try to bend reality to fit our own ego desires, rather than listening to the wisdom of the Spirit. Our willingness to be led by the Spirit of God, and our subsequent adoption, is not without suffering. But when we fall in love with God, and allow ourselves to be led by his Spirit, we are given all the graces we need to suffer and to endure until we “may also be glorified with him” (verse 17).

Lord, teach our hearts to follow your Spirit with humble love. We are nothing without your love and can do nothing without your generous grace. Be our guide. Show us the way to your peace in the midst of this wounded world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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