So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Reflection by Duke Yaguchi
The words that jump out at me in this passage are slavery and adoption. Following God isn't about slavery. It isn't because we are forced to do so. It isn't out of fear of punishment if we don't.
Adoption means choice. The adoptive parents have a choice to take on the responsibilities of a child. They have a choice to offer love to a child. In cases where the child is old enough, the child has a choice as well. The child has the choice to accept the love being offered.
Likewise, Paul's letter to the Romans is saying that God is offering us love and willing to adopt us. Being a male-dominated society, God is referred to as a father. In reality, God may not have any gender at all. But the analogy of an offer of adoptive love still holds. God is offering his love to us everyday. Continuously. No matter what we do or say or think. God wants us to join his family out of love not fear. I think it is a beautiful analogy worth contemplating.
Dear Lord, I thank you for your adoptive love. I enthusiastically accept your offer. I hope that I can show your love so that others may be adopted by you as well. In your loving embrace, I pray. Amen.