A Weekday Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Wednesday May 13, 2020
1 John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
I don’t recall the exact context, but not long ago, on what felt like day eleventy-billion of our safer-at-home quarantine, one of the girls innocently asked the question: “Isn’t everybody one of God’s children?” This is of course quite a common question, especially for young children who grow up on songs like “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Instinctively I wanted to immediately respond – “Of course, we are all God’s children!” But, on second thought, does the Bible really say that everyone is a child of God? If God is the author of life and the creator of the universe, and He specially created humanity in His own image, doesn’t that mean by definition that everyone is a child of God? How could God be good and loving if He didn’t love those He made?
Perhaps one of the main reasons so many struggle with the concepts of goodness and love as it relates to God is failing to understand the difference between recognizing God as Creator and knowing Him as Father. Although it can be accurately said, as John wrote in his gospel, that God loves the whole world, this does not mean that He loves everyone or everything in the same way, there are different “kinds” and “manners” of God’s love. The first kind of love is God’s universal love for creation and the world. God’s universal love is made manifest through what we would call “common grace”: gifts from God that anyone and everyone can enjoy. The captivating beauty of a sunrise or sunset, the delicious juiciness of freshly picked strawberries, the joy of holding a newborn baby, the provision of rain for the farmer, or a million other things that we so often overlook and under-appreciate— but this type of love is not limitless.
In his letter, John is not writing to the general population or even to the fair citizens of Ephesus; his words are directed specifically to the church: those who believe in Jesus. As John explains, Christians enjoy a special kind of God’s love and the privilege of being called children of God, being part of God’s family. In a family, children experience a special kind of love, entailing of special benefits as well as bearing special responsibilities. While I love, or attempt to love, all of the children in my neighborhood, at the moment I am only the father to three of them. My girls enjoy a special, or unique, kind of my love that is reserved only for them. Among the children of our cul-de-sac, only they can snuggle up on my lap as we read a story, only they will be tucked into bed and given a goodnight kiss, only they can call me Daddy. At the same time, they also bear unique responsibilities: only they must do as I command, only they can experience the full brunt of my discipline, only they will be responsible for someday handling my estate, or my debts.
It can be true that God loves the whole world, while at the same time also loving His children with a special, exclusive love that is known only by those who are a part of His family and carry His name. God’s love for those who believe in Him is an exclusive love that carries exclusive benefits and responsibilities. In John’s gospel, Jesus explained that His children, regardless of the trials and tribulations that they would face in this life, would have access to peace through knowing that He has overcome the world. He also promised that He when He left the earth, that He would go to prepare a special place for His children in His Father’s house.
Along with benefits, there are also unique responsibilities of being called a child of God. To be known intimately as His child means to be unknown, and unloved, by the world. John explains that the reason this is true is that the world does not know Jesus. In the opening of his gospel, John says that although Jesus “was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” To be unknown by the world can be a very difficult concept to wrestle with, as we naturally want to be liked and loved by everyone. We must remember, however, that not even Jesus was or is universally loved. Although we must strive to live at peace with all and love others as God has loved us, there are many whose cold hearts will not receive His love.
If I have placed my faith in Jesus, then I am a child of God. If I am a child of God then I can know the love of God in an exclusive, special, unique way. May we all know this kind of love today.
Prayer for Today:
Lord God, it is the unique privilege of those who believe to call you Father. By grace through faith, you have adopted into your family all who place their trust in You and You alone. We thank You for this amazing grace and we pray that more and more would be added into Your family, even today. Give us power to know and exercise the exclusive benefits and responsibilities that You give to Your children, and to represent our family name well. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.