More than one hundred million people watched last Sunday’s Super Bowl in which the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles.
Perhaps surprisingly, this is an appropriate way to begin a Valentine’s Day article, since Nielson reports that women comprise 46 percent of the Super Bowl viewing audience. That’s more women watching the game than the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys—combined.
I believe that last Sunday’s game and today’s holiday combine to make a point that may not be obvious but is deeply relevant to our lives and ministries every day of our lives.
A Valentine from God
The apostle John wrote: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). How did we become his children?
Paul explained: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4–5).
What does it mean that we have been “adopted” by God?
When my book The Coming Tsunami was published, Dr. Mark Turman and I spoke to several groups of ministers about it. One group in the Houston area was especially responsive to the topic. At one point, several of the men described ways they are engaging their culture with redemptive truth.
One of them told a story I will not forget.
I would guess that this man was in his fifties or sixties. He is a bi-vocational minister and a professional building inspector who shares Christ wherever he can with whomever he can. He told us that his starting point is usually to tell people that he was adopted by his parents.
He makes this point: “They knew nothing about me when they chose me. Unlike biological children who inherited their genetics from their parents, my parents did not know my parents or anything about my story. They chose me as I was, where I was.” He notes that such unconditional love obviously changed his life, then explains how God’s unconditional love has been even more transformative for him.
He had tears in his eyes when he finished his story. I had tears in mine as I heard it.
Why being adopted by God is so empowering
Upon reflection, I realized that there is another way to tell his story. Unlike his adoptive parents, his heavenly Father knew everything about him. He knew everything about his parents, his genetics, and his background. He knew everything about what he had done before coming to Christ and who he was when he became a Christian. He knew everything that this man would do for the rest of his life, including every sin he would commit.
And yet, the God of the universe chose him and adopted him as his child.
Paul described this miraculous reality: “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:6–7). In the Roman context, and thus for Paul’s Gentile readers, the concept of adoption was especially powerful.
Patria potestas (“the power of the father”) extended to a father’s children from their birth to his death. He could disown them, sell them as slaves, and even have them killed if he saw fit. However, if he adopted a child, that child could never be disowned, sold, or executed. They would be a permanent part of the family.
When the Spirit inspired Paul to use adoption in describing our status with our heavenly Father, he meant us to understand that nothing can cause God to disown us. On the contrary, as Paul declared in Romans 8, “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 38–39).
The Super Bowl of our souls
How does this fact relate to the Super Bowl?
On one level, last Sunday’s game was merely another football game. On another level, it was an opportunity for football immortality for the Chiefs’ players, coaches, staff, and owners.
Many of us fixate on athletes because our secularized culture has conditioned us to measure success by popularity and performance. But both are fleeting. Just ask any retired athlete.
However, when we see ourselves as the adopted children of God, when we decide that our status and identity as the child of God is the foundational fact about us, everything changes. We know that there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or less than he already does. We know that we need nothing the world can give or take, that we are a child of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Now we are free to love others whether they love us or not. We are free to serve Jesus whether the world rewards us or punishes us for our service.
Galaxies in the eye of a needle
So, as we think of today’s holiday celebrating love, let’s celebrate the daily love of a Father who decided our eternal life was worth the death of his Son, who loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
Philip Yancey writes: “Scientists now believe that if you had unlimited vision, you could hold a sewing needle at arm’s length toward the night sky and see ten thousand galaxies in the eye of the needle. Move it an inch to the left and you’d find ten thousand more. Same to the right, or no matter where else you moved it. There are approximately a trillion galaxies out there, each encompassing an average of one hundred to two hundred billion stars.”
If Jesus is your Lord, you are the child of the God who made all of that. And you are called to represent such a God of love in all you preach and all you do, inviting everyone you influence to experience such transforming love for themselves.
This is our Father’s purpose for us on Valentine’s Day and every day of the year.