I’ve been asking myself this question this week as I have reflected on my second favorite verse in the Bible—1 John 3:1.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on 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.”
What does the world think about me? Do they think I am just like them? Do they see any difference in me? If they do, do they criticize me? Do they admire me?
If I do not stand out in the world, am I truly living out the love that has been lavished on me as God’s daughter? This verse seems to imply that I might appear confusing or misunderstood by the world if I am living out my true identity as a child of God.
John implies two realities in this verse. First of all, he spills over with amazement to tell us who we are. He uses the word translated “lavish” to explain the love of God. Lavish—meaning extravagant, excessive, plentiful, generous, abundant, bountiful, prolific, luxuriant—is a powerful description of how we are loved as children of God. It seems from the way he orders his statements that we need the added affirmation that a child of God is exactly who we are. Exactly, not approximately, He means spot on, just so. Who we are is a child of God. John seems to exaggerate the too-good-to-be-true reality that we are indeed children of God. He wants us to let that fact sink deeply into our souls. We need to get our true identity from the fact that God has lavished love on us as His very own children. Why is he so insistent? Perhaps the second reality he mentions is the reason why. John invites us to claim our true identity as dearly loved children of God. In order to claim this identity, we need to lay down our old identity. Where did we get our old identity? John implies it came from the world. Looking for the world to tell us who we are is pointless according to John.
Immediately after pronouncing the truth about us, he expounds that this truth will never be comprehended by the world. Never. Never under any conditions will the world understand who you are. In fact, John says, they cannot know. The people of the world can’t even begin to know what it means that you are a child of God unless they become a child of God first.
There is a reason that your identity is in conflict with the world. The world does not see you as a child of God. The world is not going to lavish love on you because you are a child of God. Don’t even expect that from the world. Rather, expect the world not to understand your true identity. The only way you are going to live out your true identity is by looking to God alone. Satan wants to deceive us and make us blame God or each other. The problem that we have between ourselves and the world is that the world rejects God.
John totally lived out this fact. In his gospel he refers to himself as the one Jesus loved. He woke up every morning and lived in a broken, fallen world as a dearly beloved child of God. This changed everything for John. He didn’t get out of sorts when the world rejected him. He seemed to expect it. What kept him going to the end was the notion that his Father, God, asked him to continue his journey on earth. He connected to the opportunities that God offered him to encourage the faith of others. He kept on keeping on, the last disciple to perish. Through all the hard realities the world threw at him (the martyrdom of his brother, the arrest and torture of his friends, the potential danger every new convert would live under if they accepted his message), John continued to do the work God called him to do. He did it for his Father’s honor.
He did it from acceptance of these two realities: he is a dearly beloved child of God and the world can’t possibly understand that!