33They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, 'You will be made free'?"
34Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38I declare what I have seen in the Father's presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father."
39They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are indeed doing what your father does." They said to him, "We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself." 42Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. 43Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.44You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God."
I do some work for our denomination as an examiner, assessing ministers coming into our area in their theology. The big theological issues focus on the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Other important questions revolve around the Atonement and the Authority of Scripture. These are the biggies. But there are other questions, which aren't essential, but significant nevertheless. Too frequent, for my taste, is the affirmation in a fair number of statements of faith that human beings are "children of God." The problem with this affirmation is that it is not Biblical. Human beings are created in God's image but the language of sons and daughters is reserved only for those adopted into God's household. A "child of God" is one who has God as Father. It might be nice or seemingly kind-hearted to include every human person as a "child of God," but it only breeds theological confusion.
A similar confusion was in the minds of those with whom Jesus was talking in the above passage. In this particular case, the confusion came from thinking that just because one's forefather was Abraham, that you were Abraham's child, not only in the genetic sense, but in the spiritual sense of belonging to YHWH. Hence, their resistance to Jesus who was telling them they needed to be set free. A child of Abraham is already good with God. Jesus is unnecessary, so they thought, for a child of Abraham.
What they did not consider seriously is that mere genealogy is not sufficient for a right standing before God. All human beings need a mediator, a savior, before a righteous God. Having a Jewish last name won't do. Having religious parents won't do. You need to have your own relationship with God in order for that relationship to count. Someone else's relationship won't do. Relationship with God does not partake in the transitive property of equality. Just because Abraham <--> God; Abraham <--> You; You <-/-> God. Jesus goes a step further: If you were a child of God, you would love me. Obviously you don't. You actually belong to the devil, who is your "father." There's a family resemblance, Jesus is saying; you're a liar and the father of lies is the devil. So, if there's any genetic similarity at all, it's you and the devil. These aren't soft words needless to say, but they are true.
Do you have a personal relationship with God, in whom you trust, with whom you share your heart and dreams? Is your relationship with God the Father rooted in Jesus, the Son, the Savior and Mediator? If not, ask Jesus to come into your heart today.
Let's pray: Father God, we come before you today thanking you for the relationship that we have and enjoy through Jesus, your Son. May our relationship with you be an ever increasing relationship in love and deep satisfaction. If we are coming to you for the first time, may the Holy Spirit lead us into this new relationship through your revelation, the Word of God, and through prayer and worship. Thank you. In Jesus' name, amen.