Word for Wednesday... How would you define yourself?
The first things that come to your mind may be your relationship with others, your job, or even a hobby. Perhaps you’re a spouse, parent, child, or even sibling to the people around you. Maybe you’re thinking of the career path that you chose. Farmer, teacher, mechanic, carpenter, or whatever career that you have spent countless years investing your time and energy into. If none of these came to your mind then maybe you’re thinking of the hobbies and interests that you put hours into each and everyday. Regardless, we all tend to define ourselves in at least one of these ways. In our minds, these things make up our identity. This is how we perceive ourselves, and we desire for others to see us in the same way. None of these are bad ways to think of yourself, but if you have put your trust in Christ then you may be forgetting a key component to your identity if one particular thing did not come to your mind. Before this key component is revealed I would like for you to do a simple reading comprehension exercise with me. There won’t be a test at the end, I promise. So, let’s read a few verses from the Bible together. After you have finished reading these verses I want you to take a few moments and find the common theme within all of these verses. Circle them, highlight, or underline them.
One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at the table by Jesus' side,
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
After reading and analyzing these verses I have no doubt that you noticed the trend. Each and every time that the author, John, refers to himself he identifies as the disciple whom Jesus loved. There have been many speculations as to why this is. Examining the importance of nick names and name changes in the Bible is a good place to begin uncovering this key component both our and John’s identity.
In both the Old and New Testament people’s names, name changes, and nicknames were used to define and establish their relationship with God. Their names held significant value and was a marker of their identity. One example of this is Jacob. Jacob was the son to Issac and grandson to Abraham. After choosing to wrestle with faith and not abandon God despite his struggles, his name was changed to Israel. The name Israel literally means, “to wrestle with God.” Name changes and nick names were an indication that something incredible had occurred in your life.
So, what do we make of John’s referral to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved? I believe that we can confidently say that John knew the key component to his identity. No matter what John did or went through he was sure of one thing. That one thing is that Jesus loved him more than anyone ever could. Jesus’ love for him was so great that the only way he knew to speak of himself was as the man whom Jesus loved. John had no other identity or description that could compare to the love he received from Jesus. Nothing could define him more than the love of Christ. Love is a common theme in much of John’s writing. Read through John’s words in 1 John 4:16-21:
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.”
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
It is clear to me that the key component to our identity is the love of Christ. Like John, we are loved by Jesus more than anyone in this world. Nothing and no one can compare to His love for us. We should allow the transformative power of that stems from the love of Christ to define us. Let Christ’s love for you define who you are, how you treat others, and how you respond to the world around you.
— Pastor Phil