Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
John gives us a quick overview of who Jesus is and what his intentions were, in the first chapter of his book. Prior to verse 12 he details that no one recognized Jesus. His own people, who studied the scriptures intentionally looking for the Messiah, missed him. That is when John says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the RIGHT to BECOME children of God.” I would like to focus on the concept of “becoming” children of God.
The opportunity to become children of God, indicates that we are not naturally children of God. According to John, we need to “receive him” and “believe in his name”, then we have the right, or choice, to become children of God. It appears that we can receive him and believe in him, but still choose not to become his children. As a result we default to the status of orphan.
According to what I have read, an orphan has a fierce sense of independence. They know that if they don’t take care of themselves, no one else will. They are aware that there are good, kind, loving people in the world, but they feel that they are not good enough to deserve that kind of love. They often exhibit a need to prove their worth, through hard work and determination, and are very proud of their ability to do things for themselves.
If I combine John’s insight, with what I know about being an orphan, I come to the following conclusion: I have spent the majority of my Christian life as an orphan. I received Jesus and believed in Jesus, but I have never chosen to become his child. I exhibited all of the characteristics of an orphan. I was fiercely independent and knew that if I did not take care of myself no one else would. I read the Bible my entire life and was aware that God was good and kind, but somehow felt that I did not have access to his bountiful riches and kindness. As a result, I was left to fend for myself. I started a family, got a good job and continued to receive and believe in Jesus, but never fully accepted the opportunity to become his Child.
As I look back over the last four years, I see that my family and I have been reluctantly choosing to become children of God. As strange as this may sound, giving up our orphan status was very difficult. Our culture and religious training reinforced our orphan mind set at every turn. God would say, “listen to my voice, and I will take care of you” and our orphan mind would respond with plans and ways to take care of ourselves. We would read in Matthew 6 where Jesus tells his followers that they are not to worry about where they live, what they eat or what they wear and that those concerns are for the pagan people who reject God, yet we still wanted to take care of ourselves. Because we were well versed in scripture, we attempted to use the Proverbs to talk ourselves out of allowing God to be our father and take care of us. We would point to Proverbs 6 and attempt to explain that we can take care of ourselves and that we really didn’t need him to provide for us.
As you can read in our story, it has taken us a long time to accept the love of a father. We still have overwhelming moments where we think like an orphan and begin to plan to meet our own needs, but we are at least aware that there is an alternative now. We are also diligent about listening for our father’s voice and obeying his directions for each day. After all, that is what seeking first the kingdom is – listening and obeying. Our father promises to take care of all of our needs, if we will seek his kingdom first.