“Who am I? Why am I here?” That’s not just a famous moment on a political debate stage. It’s what we all need to ask ourselves in order to live well, to fulfill the meaning of life rather than wasting the life we are given.
Many people feel like a deer caught in the headlights, standing on the stage of life and not sure what we’re supposed to think or do. Fortunately, the Bible gives us answers to help guide us toward self-knowledge and right living.
One of the most important messages found in the Bible is that we are children of God. In fact, it can be considered the central theme of the Christian religion. Many Christians place the focus of their faith on other ideas, but to answer the question of who we are and why we are here, there is no better place to start.
The simple and profound truth is that God relates to us as our Parents and that we humans are God’s children. Jesus, who was called the Son of God, is the example of a human being who has grown up into the fullness of divinity. He is like our Elder Brother, in whose footsteps we are called to follow.
The idea that a human can be a child of God was controversial when it was taught by Jesus Christ. His audience were Jews who thought of God as a Lord or Ruler in the heavens, not having an intimate family relationship with mere mortals. They thought this despite the fact that the Hebrew creation story described men and women as being created in God’s own image (Gen. 1:26-27).
Jesus reminded them that the Hebrew scriptures referred to human beings as “gods” who are “children of the Most High” (Ps. 82:6). After quoting from this psalm, he asked rhetorically, “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (John 10:34-36).
Jesus taught his followers to pray to “our Father in heaven” (Mat. 6:9), because not only is Jesus the son of God, we are all the sons and daughters of the Deity.
The Apostle Paul confirmed this teaching in a sermon to the Greeks in Athens. Speaking to a group of philosophers, he observed that the city was filled with idols erected to various gods, and “I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship — and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” Paul proceeded to proclaim that the true God who had created the world “does not live in temples built by human hands,” but “is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’” (Acts 17:16-28).
The parental nature of God implies that human souls are supposed to grow up in God’s image, increasingly resembling our Creator. God is omniscient, so humans should seek to gain knowledge. God is omnipotent, so humans should become powerful spiritual beings. God is love, so humans should learn to love one another (1 John 4:7-8).
Paul expounds upon the meaning of life as a process of spiritual growth, in which we are transformed into the fullness of the image of Christ, who showed us the way. Christians are called to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants,” but “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:13-15). For “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.” (Rom. 8:17).
Likening this world to a gymnasium where athletes prepare for the Olympics, Paul says that we must discipline our souls, enduring struggles and tests so that we can build the spiritual muscles needed to be worthy of immortal divinity. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Cor. 9:25).
Unlike some Christian churches that emphasize the difference between Jesus and the rest of us — the perfection of Jesus and the terrible sinfulness of “ordinary” human beings — the Universal Church of the Restoration believes it is time for humans to stop making excuses for our failures and start living up to our divine potential. As the human race begins to grow up, we are called to hold ourselves to higher standards of faithful living.
James, the brother of Jesus said that “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20). Our faith that we are the children of God should inspire us to do our best to become more like Christ, living a life of compassionate service to our brothers and sisters in the human family. When we do this, God will give us our spiritual inheritance in heaven.