devozine

Spiritual Practice

Be Loved

Will Penner

Just before Jesus entered his public ministry, two major events occurred: (1) He was baptized in the Jordan river, and (2) he was tempted in the wilderness. Mark 1:9–11 describes the moment of Jesus’ baptism, when a voice from heaven said, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11, NRSV). What a beautiful scene! Imagine the Creator’s voice, booming out with pleasure and calling Jesus “beloved.”

sunrise praise2 TSP 452255111 copyRomans 8:16–17 (NRSV) says that you and I are “children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” An heir is someone who is entitled to all the rights, privileges, property, power, and titles given to another. A king, for instance, might pass on to his oldest son the authority to rule as king. Romans tells us that we have been adopted into God’s family and share the inheritance Jesus receives as God’s son.

Therefore, we are all God’s beloved. Rather than relating to us merely as Creator to creature, God chooses to relate to us as parent to child. We are God’s precious children. As sons and daughters of the king of kings, we, like Jesus, are princes and princesses of the kingdom of heaven. That’s good news!

At his baptism, Jesus was named God’s beloved; and immediately he was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matthew 4:1, NRSV), where he was tempted to define himself by worldly standards. None of the temptations was intrinsically bad; but they were all ways to satisfy longings that have nothing to do with God. (Read Matthew 4:1–11.)

Our culture bombards us with tempting ways to define ourselves: beauty, athletic ability, academic achievement, wealth, fame, number of Twitter followers, girlfriend or boyfriend. None is inherently bad, until we use it to define our worth. The truth is that we are never going to be good enough, smart enough, funny enough, rich enough, or cool enough to meet every expectation our culture sets. Jesus rejected worldly ways of defining himself because he accepted being God’s beloved. If we do the same, we can battle our own voices in the wilderness.

Perhaps we can think of the word beloved not as a title but as a command. God says, “Be loved.” God loves us and desperately wants us to know how much we are loved. We can’t earn it, and we have no choice in the matter. We are loved. Therefore, we should recognize it: Be loved. If we took this admonition as seriously as The Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule, how would our lives be different? Be loved. How much spiritual armor would protect us from the voices that try to define us in ways that tear us down? The Spirit is prompting us to hear: “You are my beloved child. With you, I am well pleased.” Listen, and be loved.

 

DIG DEEPER

Manger3 TSP 116142664Christmas is the time of year to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It’s also a time for people to sell us stuff, often through advertising that attacks our self-esteem. It’s a time when we feel pressured to get along with family members. Some people measure their worth by how many presents they get or are able to give. But God has already measured your worth: You are loved. God loved you enough to leave the perfect bliss of heaven and to be born as a poor country kid in a stable. During this season, take note of cultural and even Christian messages that say, “You’re not good enough unless . . .” Then remember God’s command that was first spoken to Jesus and through Jesus to us: Be loved.

Will Penner , from Fairview, Tennessee, has been leading retreats for more than a decade to help young people recognize that they are precious, beloved children of God.

—from devozine (November/December 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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