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. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:1-2
Last Sunday night I had the privilege of teaching an introduction/overview of the Letters of John. As with any one of the books of the Bible, teaching an overview can be an underwhelming experience. I mean that in the best way. An overview leaves so much on the table. It’s like we’re getting all the ingredients out of the fridge to make Thanksgiving dinner, and then leaving everything on the counter while we walk away having eaten a peanut butter sandwich. Thankfully we did uncover a couple of nuggets worth chewing on.
One of the questions I posed to the parents in the room was whether our children had ever done anything that didn’t quite live up to our standards. Have your kids ever done anything that left you scratching your head? When I was a kid, my friend Jerry and I were out in my dad’s pasture where the cows lived. We got a couple of shovels from the shed and proceeded to dig/build a fort. Man we were digging deep. Perhaps we could reach all the way to China! We kept digging, wider and deeper until all of a sudden, we hit oil! We were avid fans of the Beverly Hillbillies so we knew that if we were out in a field digging in the dirt, and a sudden sprout of bubbling crude came bursting from the earth it had to be Texas Tea (or in our case, NC tea). We were elated! We were rich! We were totally unaware of the trouble we were about to be in. We sprinted up to the house to tell my dad about our stroke of fortune, and he promptly called a plumber. We were confused. What we didn’t know was that we were digging precisely where an old farm house had once stood. The water lines that fed the barn made a pass through what used to be the foundation of that old house. We were a mess, and we were children.
John calls his readers beloved children, or little children over and over. The affection with which John writes to his people is palpable, but I would like to suggest that his usage of the word “children” might not be entirely endearing. “See what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called children of God, and that is exactly what we are”. We are children, and we are a mess. If John labeled us “the neighbor’s kids” instead of “children” I’m not sure he would get across the idea of God’s unfailing and relentless love, because even in our mess… God loves us! When we make a mess of our relationships, or our careers, or whatever, God loves us. Perhaps we think we can hold it together. We are like a toddler showing our father how well we clean up our blocks, yet we fail to realize that we are a mess not based on how well we tidy up after ourselves, but by our nature as children. We are a mess in our sinful state. We can’t clean up this mess. We need to run to “dad” and let Him know what we’re doing so he can fix our hearts and minds on Him.
John goes on to point out that we’re not done growing. “What we will become has not yet been revealed, but when He appears, we will be like Him”. Jesus is the “grown up” version of what we are going to be like. God is conforming us all into the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ- from glory to glory day by day. Each time we catch a glimpse of the nature and character of Jesus we are transformed a little more. We grow a little each time our minds are renewed. We’ll never cease being God’s dear children, even as we grow into Christ, but hopefully we will continue to grow in our character, wisdom, and understanding and in every way bring honor and glory to our Father.