Saturday, 19 January 2013

Receive, believe, born

1:10  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 1:11  He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 1:12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 1:13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (NASB)

I have one child, a son recently turned 10. He is a child who was and is always very loved and wanted. His coming into the world was very deliberate. Indeed, I am almost certain I know the night he was conceived, but I certainly won't be going into those details here ;).

For many having a child is a definite choice, especially those where some degree of medical intervention whether it be IVF or fertility drugs are involved. Of course all conceptions are subject to the vagaries of the human body, and nine months is a long time in which many things can happen. Yet many choose to have a child and end up with one.

Today's passage (sorry for the hiatus of just over a week) is about birth of sorts. There are times when in song, poetry or popular thought, we like to talk about the 'brotherhood of man', or that all people are God's children - however the later is thought about. It is true in a sense - I think Paul's speech in the Aeropagus in Acts 17 captures this. However, it also seems true biblically that being in God's family, is like human birth, and act of the will. One doesn't choose to be born, it's an accident of birth for us. Instead, the parents choose to have a child. Becoming God's children is an act of the divine will (verse 13).

And yet we see too the need to receive Jesus and believe in his name. Jesus is the Greek for of the Hebrew Joshua (Jeshua) which means 'God saves'. Indeed in Jesus God comes to save - so to believe in his name means to believe that God saves, that we need saving, and that in Jesus God himself is saving us. We are called to receive and believe. At this point we needed go into Calvinism or Arminianism - all that needs to be asserted is that we make a decision and we are born into God's family.

Note too that the world that Jesus made and his particular people (Israel) did not receive him. This is no cause for the sad antiSemitism that has marked a good part of church history. It simply highlights the fact that human hearts are inclined against God, sometimes even in the very act of seeking him. There are always those who do not believe and always those that do.

That there be a people who believe is God's will - in a sense this takes the pressure off us in sharing our faith and in feeling like we have to earn our own way. That receiving and believing is required means we have a responsibility to pray, read, understand, struggle and share. Without resolving the tensions we can both relax and work hard.

On a final note, if we are God's children by his will - sibling rivalry is ugly and more often than not avoidable. Charity between followers of Jesus is required - later Jesus will say that to love one another is a command - therefore and act of the will and not just a compulsion of the emotions. We are to show love to all, how much more those that God has born by his will?

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