11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
There are few things in the world more uplifting than hearing children sing. Last night, I went to a middle-school music concert, and I got to listen to my own children singing “We Are the World.” This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first recording of that song, and the song is being sung by choirs across the nation to remind us that we are not on our own. Presently, proceeds from the song are being used for relief for Haiti, which was devastated by an earthquake early this year. While it may be impressive to hear top-selling artists singing the song, I still think it is most effective to hear our own children sing those lyrics.
“We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me”
To hear actual children singing “We are the children” really brings those lyrics home. They ARE the children, and if we can teach them to make that choice to save others’ lives, then we really will make a better day.
But is that what we teach them? Do we in America teach our children that helping others is the rule rather than the exception? Do we raise the cause of relief of suffering above our own desires for wealth and prosperity and personal blessings?
In one of his letters to the churches, the apostle John asked, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17) When we are so focused on our own success, when we tell our children it’s a “dog-eat-dog world,” are we really teaching them the gospel of Christ? Does God’s love then abide in us?
1 John 3:16
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
THAT is the love of God in us. That love is what makes us sons and daughters of God. We are not children of God because of the flesh–not because we were born into a Christian family nor go to a certain church–but because we receive and then share God’s love. Receiving Christ is not simply an inheritance from our fathers’ traditions, it is a choice we make, a choice that leads to eternal life.
As today’s verses from the Gospel of John remind us, this choice to receive Christ is what makes us children of God. And as children of God, not only do we now partake of the inheritance of Christ, we also are beholden to follow the will of God in loving as Christ loved.
47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”
49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!
50 “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
We are children of God when we do God’s will, when we follow His Word. And if we do NOT,…
1 John 3:10
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
So which will we be? Will we receive Christ and practice righteousness, and so become children of God? Or will we continue to seek our own ends and lead our children astray into self-righteousness, pride, and greed–and so condemn them and us to being children of the devil? The Word of God could not be any clearer on this point: Those who love God in Christ are true children of God, and those who do not are children of the devil.
1 John 5:2
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
Brothers and sisters, we are children of the Lord our God when we do His will in loving others. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) If Christ was so willing to show God’s love by laying down His life for us, how then shall we demonstrate our love? Christ came to save even those who do not at first love Him, for by manifesting the love and mercy of His Father, He called more to Himself than had been called by the traditions of the Hebrews. Yes, there are still those who resist God’s love, who blaspheme His name and refuse His Son, but God’s love and grace falls upon the just and the unjust alike. Those who repent and believe in Christ shall be saved, but it is not our will that determines who shall receive Christ, it is God’s will. And since God so loved the world, so, too, ought our love to be shared with the whole world.
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
The kingdom of God is innocent and trusting, seeking the blessings of the Lord. The kingdom of God is centered around Christ, focused on God’s will, filled with God’s Spirit. Let us not forbid or prevent our children from seeking the love of God in Christ, for in so doing we deprive them of their own place as children of the Most High God. When we teach our children to serve themselves first, we condemn them and us to being last in the kingdom of God.
Are we the world? Are we the children? Are we children of God Himself? Do we seek to make a better world by expressing God’s love through our lives and actions?
Today, beloved friends, let us truly be the light of the world.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Let us be as little children of God, seeking His will for us, following His lead, listening to His teaching. Let us love as Christ loves, give as Christ gives, and in so doing glorify our Father in heaven.
Holy Father, You alone are good, and You alone are righteous, and yet You sent Your Son to bring us to righteousness. Help us to be as children before You, Father, and lead us in Your truth. Teach our hearts to share and to love and to seek Your will. Let us look to You and seek to be more like You, Lord God. And may the world see only You in us. Amen.