Being a child of God has been a bit of a theme in my life lately - I seem to be hearing the phrase quite often.
It was in my pastor's sermon on Father's Day - with the message being that any child you know deserves to be given the message that they are a child of God.
On the radio when the message was given that I am a unique and loved and valued child of God.
And it got me thinking...
I've talked about and written about and even preached about the importance of seeing yourself as a miracle, lvoing yourself and being kind to yourself.
I've talked and written about loving others and how that needs to be all encompassing.
But this child of God thing seems to suddenly cover all of that in a new way.
It struck me...
I am a valued and loved and cherished and adored child of God.
And I need to let others know that they are also a valued, loved, cherished and adored child of God.
Even if they don't believe in God.
That doesn't mean I need to go to my Muslim friends, my atheist friends, my Buddhist friends and tell them and preach at them and try to convert them. That part might come later - that part is really between them and God.
But how I live my life, how I regard myself, how I raise my children, and how I treat others is the primary way that I can show God to people around me.
If my mindset is correct... I should be regarding every person around me as a valued, loved, cherished, and adored child of God. Not once they live by the rules I think are right. Not when I determine they are only committing the "right" sins. Not once they come to my church. Not after they are baptized in MY faith.
Right now. All the time.
That guy on the corner of the off ramp that I see every day? He's dirty and scraggly and holding a cardboard sign asking for money. Some people tell me that he's probably an alcoholic or drug addict, that he's getting this free money and then driving home in his Cadillac. But God tells me... "I love him." He is cherished. All I need to see when I come across this man is that he is God's child - even if he doesn't know it or understand it.
The woman at work who lives a life of complaining and negative attitude and bitching and yelling. She's always angry, always on the verge of tears, always at an emotional 10. Some people tell me that I need to avoid her, that she makes anyone who talks to her look bad, that she is spewing hateful things about me behind my back. But God tells me... "I love her." She is adored. All I need to see when I encounter this woman is that she is God's child - even if she is broken and hurting and can't feel His love in her life.
My online friend who is of a different faith- Muslim or atheist or Buddhist or agnostic. Some people tell me that I need to convert that person, I need to preach at that person, I need to witness to that person, I need to thump my Bible at that person. God does the saving, I do the living and I witness with my life. Some people say that these friends, who don't claim Christianity as their way of living, as their way to God, won't be saved, won't go to heaven, won't have everlasting life. But God tells me... "I love them." All I need to see when I am chatting with these friends is that they are all children of God - no matter what their belief system and no matter how God is working to bring them into His fold.
My real life friend who is trying to love all people but still holds judgements on the poor, the hungry, the immigrant, the gay person, the sinner. The friend who wants to love everyone and recognizes that this is what Jesus taught and maybe doesn't see that intentions and actions don't mesh. Some say this person is a bad example of Christianity, this person is a hypocrite, isn't a "real" Christ Follower. But God tells me... "I love them." All I need to see when I am talking to these people is that they are children of our Heavenly Father - even as they struggle and fight and seek.
There is a theme here. One that I hope I am already living consistently. One that I know I've talked about.
There's another buzz word here.
No matter what society tells me about others, no matter what my "religion" tries to tell me about others, no matter what the media tries to tell me about others...
Only one truth remains.
All people are children of God. Even if they don't see it, feel it, or believe it. And my response to any person should be to regard them with the love and respect that I know is their right as a child of God. Not pity. Not judgement. Not pious. Not shaming, blaming. Not being "better than."
And maybe someday an opportunity will come up where I can share with someone... about my faith, about my relationship with God, and knowing that they are already a valued, loved, cherished, and adored child of God. Maybe someday, someone else will have that opportunity. Maybe God will work in other ways, through other religions, through other spiritual journeys to reach these people... That's God's job, not mine.
Even if you believe that a person doesn't become a child of God until they claim Christ... we can still choose to see each and every person as a potential child of God... and why would any of us want to squash that potential by being hateful, cruel, judgemental towards that potential, towards that creation?
So what is my job, my role, my purpose, my witnessing?
It is through my life. Through my words and writing. Through the love I hope I am sharing. Through the choices I make each day that other people see or are touched by.
It's when I live a life where I truly seek to encounter every person in my day as valued, loved, cherished and adored... that's when I'm truly doing God's work.
It isn't easy. What is easy is seeing other people's choices and deciding that what they are doing is obviously going to be wrong, going to be harmful, going to fail. What's easy is standing on the outside, looking in, and judging. What's easy is pitying and looking down. Because then I feel more secure in my own rightness. My own value.
But my value comes from a higher source. And once I realize that and accept that and live that... it becomes easier to overlook the bad choices, the anger, the hardships, the attitudes of others and focus on seeing them the way God sees them.