“For if, by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17 New International Version
“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10 Christian Standard Bible
“As those who are chosen, blessed, broken, and given, we are called to live our lives with a deep inner joy and peace. It is the life of the Beloved, lived in a world constantly trying to convince us that the burden is on us to prove that we are worthy of being loved.” (Life of the Beloved pg. 129, Henri Nouwen)
If there were ever words which described my struggles in living, they are those found in the previous paragraph. I feel as though my entire life has been spent in trying to convince others I am of value, worthy of being loved and appreciated. Still I seem to fail miserably time after time! I was first exposed to Henri Nouwen’s book “Life of the Beloved” at a ministerial retreat. The exercise in which I was introduced to the understandings of being and becoming the Beloved was emotionally revealing! It’s hard facing your demons in the presence of someone else, acknowledging the fear that has paralyzed you emotionally for most of your life. But it was in that first break-out group I came to know I was not alone in my fear.
Self-rejection has crippled us for so long in so many ways through so many avenues causing us so much pain and loss of peace and joy. Self-rejection causes us to believe we are alone and of no value, completely worthless and sends us into hiding. Whether our hiding is in withdrawing from society, using self-deprecating humor or judging others to prove their lack in order to build up ourselves, etc., we seek to prove we have worth. Yet we can simply believe the truth God’s Grace brings informing us we are the Beloved, and in His Grace we are becoming the Beloved!
So how do we cope with or respond to a world determined to circumvent everything God tells us is the truth? Do we withdraw to some form of a monastery to take up the life of the monastic? Is the answer to hide from the world, seeking to be righteous because we are no longer in contact with that which pulls us into rebelling against our Creator? Historically it has been proven none of these will ever solve our self-rejection issues, our rebellious heart and mind, our self-centered attitude, our struggles with all that damages us and those we love. Why? I’m glad you asked! Because the issue is within us not from without!
Jesus has called his followers to live in the World but not to be of the World. How else will the World, those who haven’t had the opportunity to really know their Creator, have that opportunity if those who do know Him refuse to be available?
“The world has a lot to offer—just as Egypt did for the children of Jacob—as long as you don’t feel bound to obey it.” (ibid pg. 130)
That is the best definition of being in the World, but not of the World I have ever read! It comes down to whom you choose to obey and whom you accept as the authority in your life which then determines your availability to your Master. Remember, we all have to serve somebody as citizens of this broken world. It can either be the One who chose to die rather than live without you or you can pick the one who only wants you to die separated from God, so He will have to live without you. Jesus calls us to be available to Him as the Beloved so we can lead others to this remarkable certainty. They, too, are the Beloved of God and can become the Beloved of God. We are sent into the World to the love the World as Christ does, seeking to inform all of this amazing truth, they are the Beloved!
“Think of yourself as having been sent into the world … a way of seeing yourself that is possible if you truly believe that you were loved before the world began … a perception of yourself that calls for a true leap of faith! As long as you live in the world, yielding to it’s enormous pressures to prove to yourself and to others that you are somebody and knowing from the beginning that you will lose in the end, your life can be scarcely more than a long struggle for survival.” (ibid pp. 131,132)
Our destiny as disciples of Jesus Christ is to be in the world; we cannot deny that calling. If we are unwilling to meet the needs of a denying planet can we honestly claim to be followers of Jesus? When Jesus spelled out what it would be like to be one of His disciples, many turned back from following Him because it was just too difficult to accept.
“‘The one who eats my flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven;… Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, This teaching is hard! Who can accept it? From that moment, many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.” John 6:56-58a, 60, 66 Christian Standard Bible
It is only as we begin accepting our value and place as the Beloved, knowing we are becoming the Beloved we are then able to invite others to meet the one who knows everything about us and calls us His Beloved! It is in acknowledging our being in the world, but choosing not to obey the world can only be accomplished as I believe the truth that I am the Beloved. I receive my value because I am, not because I do! The world judges worth by what you and I are able to do. The Kingdom of God knows our worth because we are, period! Let us allow this truth, this transforming reality to immerse us into the depths of God’s Grace so we can bring this to a world dying to know they have worth; they are valued because they are. And we have that verified in the Gospel Jesus told us to take to the World!
“The spiritual life counteracts the countless divisions that pervade our daily life and cause destruction and violence. These divisions are interior as well as exterior: the divisions among our most intimate emotions and the divisions among the most widespread social groupings. The division between gladness and sadness within me or the division between the races, religions, and cultures around me all find their source in the diabolical forces of darkness. The Spirit of God, the Spirit that calls us the Beloved, is the Spirit that unites and makes whole.” (ibid pg. 135)
In His prayer in John 17, Jesus calls His disciples to enter into the life of love by being one with Him and the Father. This is the life of the Beloved; it is the life lived by the empowering of the Holy Spirit; it is the life revealing the Fruit of the Spirit; it is the life fulfilled in us by the Holy Spirit. It is the life of the Beloved, both being and becoming. It is our certainty made possible by the intimate and passionate love and grace of our Creator, the One who calls us His Beloved!