“Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 Jn 3:2
Every day this week, First Letter of John addresses its audience as “Beloved.” On one level, this term, like “children,” is an expression of pastoral love found also in John’s Gospel. On another level, it has another meaning that both consoles and challenges.
In the Biblical world, the name stands for the person, reflecting the best hopes and desires of those who named him or her. John, in Hebrew means, “God is gracious.” Jesus in Hebrew means “God/Yahweh is salvation." Interestingly, the writings of John (the Gospel and Letters) very much unpack “grace upon grace” (Jn 1:16). The life of Jesus reveals a God who saves.
By addressing his audience “Beloved,” the author of John expresses both his care as well as hope for us. Among the things we can imagine ourselves to be, we are invited to consider ourselves as God’s Beloved. Despite what our past may have been or that we may be inclined to fear, skepticism, or being bounded by unhealthy habits, we are challenged to relate to God as someone who loves us personally, deeply, irrevocably. As we are. Without reservations. Perhaps the term “Beloved” may not be your cup of tea. Yet, the twelve days of Christmas Season is about celebrating the Good News that God chooses to be with us in each moment and experience of life in a way that “saves” us from our worst selves, individually or collectively. The same Spirit of Yahweh who comes down and remains on Jesus also remains with us in each waking moment, continually empowering greater, fuller life in us.
To be honest, as consoling as this maybe, embracing myself as “Beloved” has not been easy, nor it is painless. For years, I lived in fear and saw myself as “inferior,” “victim,” “lost.” I am gradually being freed from these limiting shackles to imagine a way of relating with God that is more “real, intimate, life-giving.” Even though human words cannot communicate the name God has for me, terms like “Beloved” or “Delighted,”, “My Joy,” come close. They represent the way that God looks at me and calls me “home” to remain in God and be my best self with others. Interestingly, it is not unrelated to the name given to me by my parents. I am grateful that there are more and more people around who both encourages and calls me to live from this place of “Belovedness.”
Take some time to imagine the way God looks at you; get in touch with the way God addresses you. Let this marinate within you these first days of the year.