You’re Children of God, Now Act Like It! (A Sermon for Easter 3B)

You’re Children of God, Now Act Like It! (A Sermon for Easter 3B)
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (Cypress, Texas)
1 John 3:1–7
April 15, 2018

How many of us ever tried to talk our parents into letting us do something just because “everyone else is doing it”? If your parents were like mine, the answer sounded something like this: “‘Everyone else isn’t my child. You are. Now act like it.”

So my kids are growing up as “PKs” — preacher’s kids. Maybe you knew a preacher’s kid when you were growing up. I was a different kind of PK, but not too different. I was a “principal’s kid.” My mom was my elementary school principal — at my church. So it was a double-whammy.

I never thought that it was fair, being expected to behave better than other kids my age. Sometimes my friends would tease me, calling me a teacher’s pet, or maybe “principal’s pet.”

Most of the PKs I knew (either preacher’s kids or the ones like me) found ways to rebel at some point. It was no fun living up to a standard of behavior that made sure we wouldn’t embarrass our parents, or get them into trouble with their schools or churches. Sometimes the pressure was too much, and one of us — never me, you understand — would do something just to be ornery, just to prove that PKs could be human, too.

That’s when The Parent/Principal/Preacher would sit us down and give us “The Speech.” It went something like this:

I know it doesn’t seem fair to you, and it probably isn’t, but the way you behave matters. People are watching, and when they see you behave badly, it reflects badly on us, and that reflects badly on the school. You represent our family, but even more, you represent our school and church. Whether you like it or not, you have to be good.

You’re a principal’s kid. Now act like it.

I was recently in a group of folks that were sharing stories of their childhood. One young man described what it was like to grow up in an adoptive home. He told of a time when, as a young boy, he had rebelled against bedtime, the way most children do at some point. He was angry at his mom and he said, “I don’t have to do what you tell me. You aren’t my real mom.” His mom didn’t miss a beat. She said, “I may not be the mother who gave birth to you, but I am the mother God intended for you. Now go to sleep.”

She might as well have said, “You’re my child; now act like it.”

We know that John his community he’s writing to, because he tells them so throughout his writing. His letters to these people are reminders not only that they are loved, but that John claims them as his own “little children.”

But more importantly, they are God’s children. And John wants them to start acting like it.

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”

I like the New International Version of verse one — it says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

John always refers to Jesus as God’s Son, but he also always refers to believers as God’s children. We have a new status, a new identity. We aren’t step-children or foster children. We are lavishly beloved children of God.

The message of John’s letter to his church is simple: “You are already children of God, now act like it. Become what you already are.”

St. Augustine said a couple of things about this that I want to mention. The first had to do with the Eucharist. He said, in the body and blood of Jesus, we behold what we are, and we become what we receive. In this meal, in this communion, we become more fully the body of Christ. We become more fully the the children of God.

But Augustine also warns us about taking that lightly. He says, “For those who are called children, and are not children, what profits them to have the name when they don’t act like it? How many are called ‘physicians’ but know not how to heal! How many are called ‘watchers,’ but sleep all night long! So, many are called “Christians,” and yet in their deeds are not found to be; because they are not actually what they are called, this is, in life, in hope, in charity” (Augustine, Homilies IV on the First Epistle of John).

You are God’s own beloved child. Become what you already are. Live into your new identity.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!

Now, act like it!

Amen.