1 Peter 1:17–23
Hopefully all of you who read this have had basic biology and know how babies are made. For the reading this Sunday, this is a very important thing. While the people and the medical knowledge were very different 2000 years ago, they knew that semen was integral in procreative practice (though they thought way to highly of that, but that is another article). For much of the Old Testament, the family line and the Seed (semen) was viewed as sacred.
Interestingly, while some would argue that it still does, people viewed the semen as almost having magical powers, which were limited, and thus by wasting seed, one could be interfering with God’s plan. We speculate that this evolved around the need for procreation for survival; even up to 50 years ago in the U.S. agricultural families were huge to be able to tend the land. Purity of seed was also seen as a premium; you could say that is was a form of primitive genetic engineering.
When Christianity began, procreation was not an issue much. While still agricultural, there was a sense that they were having some of the urban crowding problems we have today and large families, especially in the urban centers, were not sought after or rewarded. This meant that the seed was no longer seen as integral to a faithful life, though it was still important (again, there is another article there).
With the rise of Christianity, one of the lessons which Christ showed through his willingness to engage and minister to gentiles, was that being faithful had much more to do with what happened in the soul. Thus, for Christians, the genetics were not as important as the connection. This meant that birth through procreation came second to the birth through the spirit.
In fact, the terminology of the early Christians suggested that instead of an idea of “Conversion” or its evil twin “proselytism” (which caries a forced connotation) the concept was more like adoption. However, the adoption into it began in a rebirth process where the soul was made anew in God and therefore given to God.
This rebirth brought the person to a new family where there were obligations and expectations. Moreover, in this new family there is no genetic distinction! We are reminded of Paul’s words on that every time we celebrate communion. And there is no distinction between the “real” children and the “adopted” ones.
This is a seismic shift in the understanding of who might be chosen by God, and this points to a faith based on salvation, which comes, not by blood or anything else, but by faith.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen