A few weeks ago I visited a member of our church in a residential memory care unit. He was having lunch at one of the tables, so I pulled up a chair and we had a reasonably coherent conversation about the events of the day. At one point, an older gentleman sitting opposite me joined in the banter. He was gloriously congenial and happy, and so I was interested not only in what he had to say, but also his story. I asked where he was from, and he named a city and state in the western part of the U.S. When I asked how he got to the Dallas area, he told me that “my people are here.” When I commented that he must have children living nearby, he smiled broadly and said, “Yes, but I’m children too.” My lack of response prompted him to expand his statement with these words: “I am a child of God.” I felt a bit like Moses at the burning bush. Knowing that I was in a holy place, I pondered whether I should take off my boots.
The proclamation that we are all the children of God has been at the center of our ministry at Christ United since I first stepped on to the old campus thirty-six years ago. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t make that proclamation at some point in our worship services. In every baptism we celebrate the good news that “this child (or adult) is a precious child of God.”
The unshakable belief that we are all precious, and that we are all the children of God, changes not only how we think about ourselves, but also how we think about others. For instance, what does it mean to believe that your political opponent is a child of God? How does it change the conversation or the twitter feed if you stop to acknowledge that the person you are addressing is precious in the eyes of God? Whether on the grade school playground or in the executive suite, what would change if there was common agreement that each person is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” as we are told in Psalm 139. What would America look like if all followers of Christ really believed this core message of the Bible?
Full disclosure: when it comes to the aspirational vision of the previous paragraph, I am a reasonably miserable failure. The day gets long, the work piles up, the frustrations grow. I often forget who I am, and who others are. That’s the human condition, the burden we carry as flawed human beings. And it’s why we need to continue to listen for God’s encouraging word every single day. On this particular day, my preacher was an elderly patient in an Alzheimer’s unit who, in spite of all he had forgotten, remembered the most important thing about his life. And about yours and mine as well.