A Righteousness by Faith #38: Why do you fear rejection?

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 (NIV)

I have a dear friend going through a ruinous time in life, much of his own making. As he processed what has happened to him, in despair he confided, “I am going to Hell.” Because of his wandering from the experiencing of God’s love, he is wallowing in fear.

Wandering is not what having a righteousness by faith is all about. But when this friend—or even you, if you are wandering—decides to return and surrender to God’s reign afresh, he and you will be glad that God did not make this new covenant based on good or bad behavior. God does not accept you conditionally or reject you when you discover how unable you are to remain constant without the Spirit’s power. His new covenant with the ‘prodigal you’ always invites you to come home, because the adoption process is completed. You have no reason to fear that you will be beaten or rejected because you are now a child of the house.

Being adopted into God’s family should give you a different perspective about this relationship you have with God. In Paul’s day, if you were not born into a family, there were only two ways you could come to belong. The first was to be brought in as a slave. Slavery was the cultural backbone of the times, with anywhere from 30-40% of the population living under bondage. You could be a menial servant, a teacher or even a doctor of medicine and still be a slave. Strict rules governed your freedom. Punishment could be harsh. Running away could mean a death sentence. You existed to please your master and do his bidding.

To enter into God’s family as a slave does not hold out much hope for joy. So it makes sense for Paul to use this analogy to his mixed audience of Jewish and Gentile believers. Those who grew up as Gentiles would grasp this right away. God is not adding to His family more slaves. The Master’s relationship with slaves is based on obedience and fear. Slaves were compelled to mind their P’s and Q’s or suffer His wrath, which leads to constantly look over your shoulder in fear of Him catching you out!

But to the Jewish believers, there was a richer history to which Paul alludes. They suffered as slaves in Egypt for over 400 years, crying out for deliverance. God heard them and gave them Moses to lead them out. What a joyful day that was when they finally knew they were safe in God’s care—you can read this in the song of celebration they sung in Exodus 15. They knew what being a fear-filled slave meant at a deep cultural level.

Why does this matter? Paul reminds them that neither they nor their fellow believers have come into God’s family as slaves. The former covenant that defined their lives for centuries has been replaced by a new covenant. Instead of keeping the Law as a slave, both the Jewish and Gentile believers are now, through the Spirit, adopted as children with full rights. This is no probationary relationship. They—and we—are now heirs of the house and God is now our true Father, our intimate Abba.

Take it to heart that adoption as a full member of the family is how God decided to define the relationship. This is not something we dreamed up. Paul declares this as a matter of fact here in Romans just as he did to the Galatian believers: “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:6)

So on your worst days, when you awake to your failure to keep up your end of the covenant, remember that God will always be faithful. He will not suddenly change His mind, come to the end of His patience and forgiveness and send you to Hell. Your picture is in His wallet. Your name is engraved on His hand. ‘Messy you’ are an heir. So don’t fear. Draw near instead. And call Him Abba. This is how a righteousness by faith is lived.

-Steve