The second thing John called his readers to do was to embrace their true identity in Christ. 1 John 3:1-2 says, “See how much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.”
Older translations present the opening more dramatically. For example, the KJV states, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us.” The phrase literally reads, “Of what country is this love?” The point is obvious. The Father’s love is so unlike anything that we have known or experienced on earth that it is literally, “out of this world.” This love is so unique and powerful it results in making us children of God.
John uses an adoption metaphor, imagining us named, legitimized and secured in the Father’s love. That would have been a powerful metaphor in the first century when it was legal for fathers to reject unwanted children and have them discarded. Historians report that under the governance of Tiberius in North Africa, fathers could order children to be sacrificed to a god, drowned, left to die of exposure or even offered to wild dogs. John’s reassuring words about the Father’s love certainly would have fallen on the ears of his original audience differently than they do ours!
Like his first century readers, we are loved and accepted by God. We have been given his name. We bear his image now in part, but when Christ returns we will see him as he is and will be like him in fullness. Check back tomorrow and I’ll finish up this series with the final word of advice from John’s pen.