See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
I John 3:1-3
From the time I was a boy I have heard preachers presume to make God greater by making humans smaller and loathsome. They imagine somehow they glorify God by demeaning the crown of His creation, the humans made in His image and redeemed to share in His glory forever. But God forbids such prattle. God will not be lifted up by putting down His children. God does not move us to godliness by shaming or belittling, but rather He moves us by reminding us of the transcendent glory of being His children.
Thus, in today’s text, the Apostle John asks readers to see, to look at, and to be in wonder of the infinite depths of the Father’s love for us His children. “See,” John invites, “what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God”. Then for emphasis John adds reassuring words: “and that is what we are”. We are God’s children.
Mothers and fathers know what it means to love their own children. When a child is your own you love the child in spite of their problems, their faults, and their rebellion. They are after all, your children. And through kinship with Christ we have become God’s children. This is not something we have worked for, earned or merited, but, as John says, it is something that “the Father has given us”.
Martin Luther was once asked, “Do you feel like a child of God this morning?” Luther thought for a moment and then confidently replied: “I cannot say that I feel like a child of God this morning, but I know that I am.”
As John writes the astonishing, breathtaking words of today’s text, he is in the ninth decade of his life, the last living disciple of Jesus. We can imagine John’s skin weathered and wrinkled, his eyesight dim, but his heart wise and filled with love. With a gentleness that he must have learned from Jesus, John warmly calls his readers, “Beloved”: “Beloved, we are God’s children now”. Just as John was known as the “beloved” disciple of Jesus (John 20:2), so he wants all who follow Jesus to know that they too are equally ‘beloved’ by the Lord. Each is uniquely special to Him. We are God’s beloved children, now!
What we will be one day, John says that we cannot know, only that when we see Jesus we will be like Him. And it is the promise that we will be like Jesus which is the basis for God’s call to us to follow Him now. God created us and destined us forever to be like Him. So there is no shaming with the heavenly Father, no belittling of us, rather the gracious assurance that we are His beloved children, now. So God calls us to be who we are, His children. The beloved children of God will ”purify themselves,” John reminds, “just as He is pure”.
There are two ways that we try to move people to be like Jesus. One way is the way that I have heard so much through the years; it is shaming, guilting, and belittling people to follow Him. The other way is the Gospel way, which is to proclaim the dignity of who we are through Christ, and to Whom we belong!
We are God’s beloved children, now!
Grace and peace–Tim
Photo by Lawrence OP