Ok, so this picture is a little crazy. We don't normally see a grown adult male sporting a cape and a mask. I love this picture, though, for several reasons.
This picture reminds me of when I was a child. I would tie my security blanket around my neck. Suddenly, I was transformed into one of my heroes, either Davy Crockett, or Daniel Boone, or Peter Pan, or the Lone Ranger. I would go on all sorts of adventures with that "cape". The first adventure would be to find my mom and introduce myself as her "long-lost son". She would welcome me with open arms, calling me by the name that I had chosen that day. I knew that I was welcome no matter what name I had, for I was her son.
This picture also reminds me of what it means to be a child in God's family. He accepts us as we are (no matter how crazy we look), gives us security and confidence in Himself (see that big smile on this man's face), and promises to bring us to live with him.
In 1 John 3, John writes that God calls us His children. This is language of adoption. While there aren't many examples of adoption in the Old Testament, adoption was growing in popularity in the Roman world. It would grow to be so popular, that Roman emperors would start adopting grown males in order for the emperors to choose who would replace them. A Roman citizen could adopt a child of any age at any time. In fact, a Roman citizen could adopt a child after death through a will. Once a child was adopted, he had full legal status as a child of his new father. He was not a "second-rate" child. He was equal with any children born to that man. Once a child was legitimately adopted before witnesses, he could not be removed from the inheritance.
Paul and John both refer to followers of Christ as being adopted into God's family. John writes in his Gospel, "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God" (John 1:12-13). Paul in his letter to Rome states this: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children" (Romans 8:15).
We, as adopted children of God, are not second-rate children in God's family. We are loved more than we can imagine. We have full access to God as our Father, no matter what. We have complete confidence that all the promises that God has made to us will be kept, for we are His children.
Our adoption is not based on what we have done. Truthfully, we cannot do anything to earn God's favor. We all have sinned, and we will all continue to sin. Nothing that we do can undo the harm we have done. In spite of all we had done to Him and each other, God looked at us with love, wanting to reconcile us to Himself. He made the first move, sending His Son to pay the penalty for our actions. After paying our fine, He adopted us into His family. And, just as the Romans couldn't disinherit an adopted child, God promises that He won't disinherit us. He promises that He will come again and give us new clothes, changing us to be like He is.
This is grace. Accepting us for who we are. Keeping us, in spite of who we are. And changing us to be different than we are. All this is not based upon what we do, but based upon our great God who proved His great love by adopting us.
We can have confidence that our Heavenly Father views us the same at all times. He loves us as His children, and He accepts us as His children. We can also have confidence that God won't leave us as we are. No matter what we have done in the past, or the struggles that we currently have, God will make us new. We will be like He is, because He has promised that. In expectation of that time, we should try to imitate our Father, just like a little child tries to imitate his dad. Just like that child never is able to truly be like his dad, we won't either. However, this is where grace comes in. God loves us and accepts us as His children. We can rest in this.
So, next time you see a child putting on cape, or an adult doing the same, see the look of glee on their face and remember what it means to be a adopted child of God.