Episode 9: Children of God
Children of God are unique because their origin rests in God.
CHILDREN OF GOD
But whoever receives the Word, the Word grants them
the ability to become children of God, this is given to
those who believe in the name of the Word, children
born not of blood, nor of the will of a person, nor by the
will of a man, rather born of God. (1:12-13)
Becoming a child of God, or rather joining with others as children of God, represents a remarkable, distinctive event. This birthing process has nothing to do with human birth but focuses entirely on God. Because the term, children, appears rarely in this gospel it is more profitable to focus on the repercussions of this event rather than on these three appearances.
The Origin of Children of God
Children of God are unique because their origin rests in God. God is the author and originator of their existence. This reality is repeated frequently in Jesus’ encounters with others. During one particularly intense confrontation in John 8, Jesus distinguishes between those who are of God and those who are not.
The one who is from God hears God’s words; for this
reason you do not hear God’s words because you are
not from God. (8:47)
We find Jesus indicating that one key component which identifies children of God is the ability to hear when their father speaks. But hearing God speak is one thing, knowing the speaker is God is quite another. Jesus clarifies this distinction.
Jesus said to them, “If God were your father, then you
would love me, for I have come forth from God himself;
indeed, I did not represent myself, but God sent me. You
do not recognize what I am saying because you are
unable even to hear my word. (8:42-43)
Children of God will hear the message of God’s representative, Jesus, and will also love God. Children of God originate with God and their response to God demonstrates this reality.
Relationship of Children of God with Jesus
Since God exists as Father to the children of God, and as Father to the Son of God, then the children of God and the Son of God share this same Father. The Gospel of John clearly indicates that in order for these children to understand God they are dependent on the Son.
No one has seen God at any time; the one uniquely God
who was at the breast of the father, that one has
explained God. (1:18)
Indeed, not only does Jesus explain who God is for the benefit of humanity, Jesus also dispenses to humanity all that God possesses.
For the one whom God sent speaks God’s words,
for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves
the Son and has placed everything into his hand. (3:34-35)
As the children of God find their identity in God and learn this identity from Jesus, they must continue learning how to hear the words of Jesus, the Word at the beginning with God. The imagery Jesus uses of the good shepherd captures this reality.
“The porter opens the door for the shepherd and his
sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name
and leads them out the doorway.” (10:3)
During the last evening Jesus spent with his disciples he makes a similar statement describing the relationship of these children to both Jesus the Son and God the Father.
Jesus answered and said to the other Judas, ‘whoever
loves me will keep my word and my Father will love
him and we will both come to him and make a dwelling
with him. Whoever does not love me will not keep my
word; and this word which you hear is not mine, but
comes from my Father who sent me.’ (14:23-24)
Relationship of Children of God with the World
Once the disciples have spent more time with Jesus, Jesus begins to speak to them of what is about to happen. One point he seems to repeat deals with their relationship to others. He tells them they will be hated because they are no longer operating from the same framework as others. They are no longer “of the world.” (15:18-19, 17:14) Those who mistreat them will do so because they simply have not known the Father, God. There is a marked distinction between those born of God, and those who are not.
During Jesus’ prayer he describes again how the world has not received him because they don’t know the Father. As Children of God who know the same Father, the same fate awaits. But Jesus’ prayer is for these to imitate the Son and to be sent into the world to let those of the world believe that God the Father sent Jesus. (17:21) Twice in this prayer he describes the Children of God as possessing unity (17:21, & 23) in order that the world might know Jesus was sent from God.
Yet, in order for the world to know that Jesus was sent from God, these Children of God must go into the world.
I am not requesting that you take them from the world,
but that you protect them from the evil one. They are
not from the world just as I am not from the world.
Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.
Just as you sent me into the world, even so I sent them
into the world; I have set myself apart in your truth for
their benefit so that they themselves may be set apart in
your truth. (17:15-19)
So rather than maintaining a distinction based on location, the children of God are set apart by the Father’s truth, which is, of course, the Logos, the Word at the beginning with God.
Even though the word, children, seldom appears in the Fourth Gospel it is crucial because this word defines the type of relationship that exists between God and humanity. God the Father gives birth to these siblings of Jesus, in a manner of speaking. These siblings learn all there is to know about God the Father through the words of Jesus the Messiah. Just as God loves the world and sent his Son into the world, so God continues to demonstrate his love by sending his other children to proclaim the truth concerning the Son of God. Yet, more promising still is the idea that these children of God are not sent alone into this world. Instead, Jesus the Son and God the Father come to each child and joins with him or her. The Father and the Son live with each child of God, through the power of God the Holy Spirit.
Take 5 Minutes More
Young children often worry and fret whenever they are separated from a parent, especially from mom. Other caregivers, even family ones, will suffice for a time, but eventually only the parent will satisfy their need. As children of God we, too, find satisfaction only when fully present with God the Father.
As children grow, they often seek to imitate a parent. They enjoy engaging in a similar activity, like cooking or building, even when their efforts may not have any noticeable effect. Since Jesus prays that the children of God might be engaged in the same activities as he, the question for me becomes “Am I?”
Take a moment and consider these three thoughts. 1) How often am I associating words from God with God? 2) How frequently am I listening for the voice of Jesus the Son so that I might follow him? 3) In what ways is my relationship with the world around me reflecting the same love that God demonstrates for his world?