Text:Romans 8: 12- 17
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 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.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
This passage shows the Trinitarian nature of God. Trinity is a very important doctrine, so let me emphasize it before I concentrate on the passage above. There is always trouble in understanding the Trinity. Trinity emphasizes that God is one in three persons. That sounds like a paradox. The Infinity of God is beyond our understanding. But in the Three persons, God reveals three aspects of God-head, so that we can comprehend him. Bishop Kalistose Ware in his book The Orthodox Way explains the 3 Aspects or Persons in the following manner:
A) God Who is Beyond Us. God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3: 14) This answer will help us understand that Moses here was trying to make God more tangible for the people. He wanted to accommodate God in the concepts of humans. But God cannot be domesticated or accommodated in our boxes of thoughts. “I am That I Am” can also be translated from Hebrew as “I Will Be Who I Will Be”. It points to a Dynamic God who is on the move and beyond our grasp. There are many things in our life that makes no sense to us. Many things is beyond our reach. We did not decide to be born on our own terms choosing our parents. We do not even choose our death. It is beyond us. When everything is fine in our lives something disturbing happens and we just do not know what the meaning of this is. There are so many aspects of our planning that has gone for a toss. We have to have the humility to accept that “God is beyond us and our understandings”. This is not a very comforting thought for a control freak generation like us. But accepting this reality helps us to open ourselves to many realities in lives. It helps us to fight against our patterned thinking and minds filled with hatred.
B) God Who is With Us. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1: 14 a). This passage like Matthew 1: 17 shows Emmanuel: God with us. Humans always struggle with uncertainties and change. If God Beyond us helps us to accept this reality, God who is with us helps us to deal with this reality. God has given assurance that he is always with us. God who suffers with us, who cries with us, who celebrates with us. In a world where we see purposelessness written writ all over the place, God who is with us gives meaning and purpose to our life. Viktor Frankl says that “in the madness of the concentration camp where humans became beasts, the God who was with me helped me to carry on. I was not alone. I had hope. Friends we live in times where feeling lonely and alienated is very easy. With the boom in technology and communication one realizes that this does not assure fellowship and brotherhood but has pushed people to depression and acute loneliness. Let us remember that we are not alone. We have a God who is travelling with us. We are not alone.
C) God who is Within us: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. ( 1 Corinthians 6: 19.) Philip Yancey says that on the day of the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit took residence in our flawed and sinful human body. Holy Spirit lives within us. It is the Holy Spirit that helps us discern the presence of God in world that denies the very existence of God. There are moments in life that devastate us. We do not know what to do. We do not know what to pray for. We doubt ourselves. In such a moment the verse that gives me comfort and assurance is “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8: 26)
Well with that let us focus on the passage before us. Paul is talking about our slavery to flesh. We are slaves of our desires and think only of ourselves. This leads to a slavery of self-gratification where fellowship and relationship is just a means to fulfill our desires. It is here where Paul reminds us that by the Spirit of God we become the Children of God. “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). The Holy Spirit has called us to be Sons and Daughters of God. It has called us to be in relationship and in perpetual love. My mentor Rev Sunny George says that the chant before the Holy Qurbana “Daiva Suthar……” conveys this meaning of adoption. “Daiva Suthar Naam Aayiduvaan, Jeevigalayi Nadanapol”. It says of the work of the Holy Spirit that has called us from our state of beastly nature (Jeevigalayi) to the possibility and grace of being the Children of God (Daiva Suthar).
After the Delhi rape case, Cousin of my wife, Vanessa updated on facebook as follows “Well the World did not end on 21st December 2012. So what? Humanity ended long ago. We live in times where calling humans as beasts is an insult to the beasts. It is in such times Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit has transformed us to be Children of God. This is just not a word of comfort. It is a call to be responsible human beings.
Yesterday when I was travelling in the train I happened to see the movie Schindler’s List. I was so moved by this movie of a man who was a Nazi official. He was a German industrialist who exploited the German invasion of Poland. He used the opportunities in Krakow by employing Jews in an enamel ware factory. He made a fortune out of sheer ambition. He bribed and looted people to get away in his business. His only reason to employ Jews was nothing noble. Jewish labour cost less. He was a favorite of the Nazi SS and was their frequent guest. While witnessing a 1943 raid on the Kraków Ghetto, where soldiers were used to round up the inhabitants for shipment to the concentration camp at Płaszów, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many of the Jews who had been working for him. This encounter changed him. He now tried to save the Jews who worked for him. He bribed and used his influence to get his work done. In the context of war he had to shut down the Factory of enamel ware. He therefore schemed to start an Ammunition factory where he had a list of Jews typed by his assistant Ishaq Stern. He listed 1, 100 Jews and they became part of his factory. Wives, children, and even persons with disability were shown to be necessary mechanics and metalworkers. His factory was a place where Jews were treated with utmost dignity, they were allowed to pray and follow the Sabbath. What was the most moving part of the movie was when in the end Schindler had to escape he cries as he believes he could have saved more Jews. He says “If I had sold my car I could have saved 10 more Jews”. Oskar Schindler died as a penniless man but solely responsible for the survival of a generation of Jews called the Schindler Jews.
We live in times where we see no hope. But the Holy Spirit calls us to be “Daiva Suthar”. It is a comfort but moreover it is a commission and a responsibility to realize the Kingdom of God. As it is said “Today we do not need successful people. We need people who are comforters, healers, story tellers and prophets.” May Triune God lead us on.
Rev Merin Mathew
Mar Thoma Syrian Church