It’s a new year and time to review the past and make plans for the future. My past resolutions have had the common threads of striving for the good life. The happy life. The comfortable life. The charmed life. The beautiful life.
In this new year, I resolve to live the Beloved life.
And the funny thing is, there is no striving needed to live the Beloved life. Jesus already calls me His Beloved, but sometimes I let the rantings of the world drown out His voice. I spend too much time living the defeated life. The thwarted life. The striving life. The discontented life. The fraudulent life. I don’t want to spend one minute of the new year conceding to any of those lying lives.
In 2020, what if we take the focus off of new and different, and instead bask in the already promised? Just as God declared to Jesus, “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests,” (2 Peter 1:17), so He says to me and to you. We are His Beloved.
But what does it mean to live the Beloved life?
Recently I came across an article about Francis Chan. Truth be told, I tend to dodge Francis Chan – his sermons, his books, and articles about him. To be clear, I don’t avoid him because he’s a false teacher or for superficial reasons rooted in his looks – he actually has one of the most beautifully radiant smiles the Lord has created. No, I tend to avoid Chan because he’s one of the most convicting people I’ve ever encountered. I’m simply not the same after reading/listening to him. And wanting to avoid him says way more about me than him.
However, I read this particular article and it has stuck with me. You can read it in its entirety (which I highly recommend), but one line keeps replaying in my head. Chan is recounting God answering a huge, almost nonsensical prayer in the most lavish way and Chan says, “I feel like an only child and think there’s no way You, God, listen to everyone like this….”
He feels like an only child. Like he has all of God’s attention. As soon as I read those words, I thought, “He’s living life as the Beloved.”
Living as God’s Beloved may be a new concept for you, but it’s rooted firmly in scripture. I think of the apostle John as someone who lived a Beloved life. He was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but he referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20, 24 ). It might seem like John had a lot of audacity, but what he really had was the blessed assurance of Jesus’ love. He walked in the identity of being Jesus’ Beloved.
Nowhere in John’s gospel does it say Jesus pulled him aside, singled him out and proclaimed He loved John more than the others. If Jesus had done that, I’m quite sure John would have shared that scene with us. John (hilariously) lets us know he ran faster than Peter to the tomb (John 20:4), so I’m confident he would have told us if Jesus bestowed an honor to him that wasn’t meant for others.
No, John does quite the opposite. He not only lives, breathes and wears the banner of being loved by Jesus, but it’s in his gospel that we read that we, too, are invited to be the Beloved. John records Jesus’ prayer to God in which Jesus invites all believers – first His disciples (John 17:11) and then every other believer who follows (John 17:21) – to be one with Him as He and God are one.
Don’t let that slip by – Jesus says He wants His followers to be one with Him as He and God are one. He wants no distance between Himself and His followers. We are invited, not just to worship Jesus from afar, not to put Him on a shelf with all the other reverent objects we don’t touch, but we are invited into holy relationship with Him. He invites us to be loved and live the life of the Beloved.
And the life of the Beloved is really His only offer. Jesus doesn’t offer a casual or tepid relationship. He doesn’t offer acquaintance status for believers. Nor does He merely offer a glimpse of Himself at a holy, unreachable distance.
He offers all of Himself and desires full devotion from His followers. And to His followers He so lavishly gives the true life. The contented life. The peaceful life. The abundant life. The courageous life. Eternal life. The Beloved life.
Henri Nouwen says that in living the life of the Beloved we switch from, “living life as a painful test to prove that you deserve to be loved, to living it as an unceasing ‘Yes’ to the truth of Belovedness…. Life is a God-given opportunity to become who we are, to affirm our own true spiritual nature, claim our truth… but most of all, to say ‘Yes’ to the One who calls us the Beloved.”
How would this year – or your life – be different if you claimed and accepted being Jesus’ Beloved?
The Beloved is woven into the fabric of every single believer in Jesus. We need only clothe ourselves in that truth every day of this new year. And then every day beyond until we meet Jesus face-to-face and He calls us then what He calls us now: Beloved.
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
“Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver
Dear Lord, thank You for loving us first. May we not even think we can receive Your love casually – You have made no paradigm for that. May we know You more and therefore, know Your love more. Lord, deliver from us from the default mode of “new is better” as we make resolutions. Instead, let us abide in what You’ve already so graciously and lovingly given us. Let us not walk this Earth, shoulders slumped and head down in loneliness, when You (YOU!) have called us Your own and Your Beloved. Praise Your Holy Name. Amen.
P.S. – After reading the article about Chan, he happened to be a guest on one of my favorite podcasts, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Look up this interview wherever you download podcasts to hear one of the most gracious, humility-filled interviews ever recorded. Again, thanks for convicting me, Francis. Not sure I would ever admit and submit my failings the way you did. Thank you, brother.