Referring to Jesus the writer of the “Letter to the Colossians” states that

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15,16)

In The Letter to the Ephesians the writer articulates a cosmic vision in which God is celebrated as the origin of all creation. He writes,

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

How big is this “all”? Who is included in the category of that “all” of whom God is the “Father”? The “all” in both Colossians and Ephesians appears to cover the widest possible scope. It sounds as if no one and nothing is excluded.

The writer of Ephesians appears to affirm that all human beings trace their origins to God, that God is indeed the Father “of all”. If God is the “Father of all”, then “all” people are in some sense “children of God.”

But, John the Gospel writer seems to suggest that we must become “children of God”. He seems to imply that there may be people who are excluded from the category of “children of God”.

to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12,13)

John’s “all” sounds more exclusive than the “all” in Colossians and Ephesians.

How can we be both all be “children of God” and yet still need “to become children of God”?

The question points to a complex tension that runs through the New Testament and through the Christian faith. There is an “already” and a “not yet” dimension to the Gospel, that makes it possible for two apparently contradictory statements to both be true at the same time. If we cannot embrace the complexity of something being “already” true and, at the same time, “not yet” fully realized in the present moment, the depths of the Gospel  will remain elusive.

We are already saved; and we are not yet fully whole. We are already living in the peaceable kingdom; and we do not yet fully embody that kingdom in the world. We are already luminous bearers of light created in the image of God; and we are not yet fully transparent to the glory of our true nature. We are already perfectly healed by the redemptive sacrifice of Christ; and we are not yet completely able to manifest in our flesh the fullness of that healing.

If we live too much with the “already” we risk becoming complacent and dishonest about the realities of the flawed human condition. If we dissolve the tension by seeing only the “not yet,” there is a danger that we will become disillusioned and lose the luminous vision for which we were created.

John affirms that, when we place our trust in Christ, we receive power to become “children of God” in a way that is not yet fully realized by our created nature. A new ability is born within us to live our lives in intimate communion with the Divine reality Who is the Father of all creation.

It is as if I had two children, one walks away from me, turns his back on his home and chooses to deny the reality that he is my son. This wayward son remains my child. Nothing can undo the fact that I am this child’s father just as much as I am the father to my second son who remains in close contact with his parents and lives with us in intimate regular communication. Both are my children, but only one lives in the fullness of relationship that is intended for a parent and a child. The child who walks through life in communion with me as his father, is my child in a fuller and deeper sense than the child who has chosen to live apart from his family.

But, at no time, will I as a father ever turn my back on either of my children. My wayward child only needs to trust again in the depths of my love, and immediately he will discover within himself the power to live again in that loving father and son relationship for which he was created.

I pray in this Advent season that I may know myself to be a child of God both in the sense that God has given me the gift of my life and in the sense that God desires to live in loving communion with me every day of my life.