New Life was founded by the vision and drive of a remarkable man of God—Dr. C. John Miller, or as most knew him, Jack. There were many others who came alongside Jack, including Rose Marie, his wife, whom we still think of as the “mother” of our church. But as part of our celebration of our 40th anniversary I want to try and capture something of what compelled Jack forward in a ministry that included the starting of New Life Church and World Harvest Mission (now Serge).

I think the phrase that first grabbed the attention of both my wife, Sandy, and me when we first met the Millers was the statement “You are living like an orphan and not a son.” That idea is the doorway into the renewal teaching that became known as Sonship. Orphans vs. Sons was not only a key lesson in the Sonship conferences and discipling, but it led to a chart and even a checklist comparing the characteristics of an orphan to those of a son or daughter. The wonderful book that Rose Marie wrote about her journey, From Fear to Freedom, has the subtitle, “Living as Sons and Daughters of God.” The context of that title is the answer she received from Jack when she asked him why she continued to be filled with guilt and anger. He said, “Rose Marie, you are acting like an orphan and not a daughter.”

Biblically, the contrast is between a slave and a son (or daughter). The two key passages on adoption, Romans 8:12-17 and Galatians 4:1-7, both speak of our time apart from Christ as slavery and our deliverance into the new relationship as that of becoming a child of God and co-heir with Christ. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:7).  So identifying someone (or ourselves) as an “orphan” is not a term for an unbeliever, but a believer who hasn’t learned to life out of this wonderful new relationship. It is a vivid way to describe the unnecessary struggle that many Christians experience because the truth of adoption hasn’t really gripped their souls—so they are children but live as orphans.

An orphan, typically, is a “survivor.” He or she has survived by their own wits but are perpetually in fear of being abandoned again. There is no one else to care, so the orphan must do it. As a result many orphans have gone on to achieve great things—both good and bad—but behind that achievement is a deep sense of insecurity. Almost all of us know of orphans who have been adopted into loving homes but who couldn’t just relax and allow that secure environment to surround them with a sense of well-being. On the other hand we also know of adopted children who know the total security of being a son or daughter. The fact that they were adopted simply describes how they became members of the family. I have even observed adopted children in the same family going different paths, depending on whether or not they could enter the joy of their families vs. remaining on the outside of their parents’ love, going through a perpetual identity crisis. Both of the key passages mentioned above make it clear that not only are we brought into God’s family, with Jesus as our older brother, but that we are now can call God the Father our “Abba,” which is the way a beloved child could address his father. (Think of our English word “Daddy” as the same form of address.)

So technically speaking “orphan” is not a term used to describe followers of Jesus—we are sons and daughters or we are slaves. But using the language of orphan is a helpful way to think about how we are actually living. Thank you Jack and Rose Marie for challenging us to take a fresh look at out sonship and ask if the new relationship is really the basis on which we live our lives.

(Note: During the weeks of summer tapes of some of the original Sonship lectures will be played during the AdultEd hours of 9:00 and 10:45 AM. These “archives” are not only interesting historically, but they will speak to your souls. Come and join us.)