Summary: Where are our true origins? We can only be free from death and law and the need to justify ourselves when we realise that our real mother is not from this world, but that we are children of the heavenly Jerusalem, of the promise of God
Paul writes, ‘The other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free and she is our mother’ (Galatians 4.26)
It is strange language. Why not ‘home’? It would make more sense
But when Paul talks about ‘our mother’, he is speaking of our origins.
Our understanding of our origins is vitally important. It shapes our self-understanding, and our understanding of other people.
That is why programmes like ‘Who do you think you are?’ are so fascinating.
It is why many people research their family histories.
In our society we usually look for our origins through the paternal side.
But for the Jew, origins are traced through the maternal side. I am a Jew not if my father is a Jew, but if my mother is a Jew.
So when Paul wants to remind Christians that we are not children of this world, but children of that world; that we are not children of biological necessity, but children of the promise of God, he asks us to think through the question, ‘Who is your true mother?’
Is our mother Hagar? I don’t really have time here to go into the story. You can read it in Genesis 16 and following. Abraham had been promised a child by God through his wife Sarah. But as time went on and as Sarah got older, he decided to take things into his own hands. He had a child by Hagar, Sarah’s slave girl. They did that sort of thing in those days. But God said, ‘No. That is not the child that I promised you’. And at the right time, although way beyond the age when she could have given birth, Sarah gave birth to Isaac.
So we have on one side, the child of Hagar, the child of human wisdom, the child of the flesh.
And on the other, the child of Sarah, the child of impossibility, the child of the promise.
Who is your true mother?
Is your origin your mother’s womb?
Because if we simply trace our origins back in our family tree to some great great etc great grandparent, or back further to an ape, or some proto-plasma floating about in a primeval soup; if we consider that our origins lie within this universe, this world of space and time – then we can never be free.
We are subject to law.
We crave significance and value. We want to matter, and we need to prove somehow that we do matter.
And the only way that we can do that is by following rules or breaking rules.
We try to please God, or whatever is ‘god’ to us, by living a good life – by showing that we are a truly worthy human being.
We try to prove ourselves to our parents by making them proud of us and doing what they want – or we try and prove ourselves to ourselves by breaking their rules and rebelling against them.
We try and please our friends, or those we consider significant, by doing what we think they want us to do.
It is the principle, the law of, and I am using a theological term here, ‘justication by works’. We try to justify ourselves by what we do.
And if our origin is from this world, from something that was created out of nothing (Hebrews 11.3), then we are nothing and our future is nothing. Our origin is nothingness, and our destiny is death.