“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,
that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.”
(1 John 3:1)
It should come as no surprise to those of you who know me that I am a total “fan-boy” when it comes to anything Sci-Fi or Super Hero. I grew up on Doctor Who, reruns of the Star Trek TV show, and the Star Wars movies as the gold standard for every other story. I always imaged what it would be like if one day I could learn the ways of the force. (I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to see my own sons still use the “force” to open the automatic doors at the grocery store.)
Putting it mildly, I was delighted by this summer’s release of Superman: Man of Steel, a retelling of the origin story of Superman. While it was not the classic Christopher Reeves story (which I saw countless times in the theater), it was much, much better than the Superman movie that came out in 2006. The graphics are exactly what you’d hope for from a super hero movie today, there are some great performances from big name actors, and the story is really quite good.
There is, in particular, one scene that resonated with me in the “Man of Steel” movie. Young Clark Kent is coming to terms with who he really is; an alien from another planet with inexplicable powers. While he’s just wanted to use his strength to help save those around him, he’s seen as a threat, a freak, a danger. Talking with his adopted father Jonathon Kent (wonderfully performed by Kevin Costner), Clark/Superman says:
“Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?”
Jonathan replies, “You are my son”
Well played, Superman (sniff, sniff), well played.
Jonathon and Martha Kent find a child amidst the wreckage of some distant planet that has fallen to earth, and they take that child in as their own. He bears their name. He is raised with their values. He is strengthened and encouraged by their love. He learns of courage, commitment, and sacrifice from them, and becomes the hero that every boy who ever put on a red cape wanted to be.
This is the wonder of adoption. It is no mere pretending, no make-believe deception. Jonathon and Martha loved Clark. They were his parents. He was their child. There was a stronger tie than anything biology could produce; there was love.
What a remarkable parable for the transforming power of God’s love. In 1 John 3:1, there is a great pronouncement of a vital truth, We are the children of God. We have been adopted, claimed by the love of the Father, He calls us His children. As the prophet Hosea so powerfully demonstrates, we who were once called, “Not my people” are now called “Children of the living God” (Hosea 1:10). We have been adopted by God, and so we are called the children of God.
And we are His children. This is not some hope for the future, but a present privilege. God is our Father, now. We may enjoy the benefits of His grace, a grace that He bestows lavishly upon His children. We are the recipients of His Fatherly guidance; through His Word God guides, disciplines, and teaches His children in the way of righteousness. He is our Father, and by faith we are members of His household, protected by His victorious might. We bear His name into the world, and wherever we go we may be assured that our heavenly Father will shield and defend us.
Just this week, my 6 year old has come home from school, hurt and upset about the cruel things that other kids in his class have said about him. I asked him if any of the things they said about him were true, he knew they were not. I asked him if he thought that I thought these things were true, he knew I did not. I asked him if he thought that God thought these things were true, he smiled, knowing God did not either. Then I told him, “You know what I think of you son. And you know that God loves you, and what He thinks of you. What does it matter what someone else says about you, when you know what your God and your Father think?” Strengthened by that love and assurance, that 6 year old could face the day with confidence.
Knowing the great love of God that has claimed you and called you His child, what can you face today?
When facing the lies and accusations of a broken world, we may cry out to God, “Can’t I just keep pretending that I’m your child?”
To which we will hear the voice of God saying, “You are my child. There’s no pretending.”
“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.” Eternity will never exhaust the marvel of God’s amazing love for us. May we live in the strength and assurance that such love abundantly provides.
Inspired by the title of the blog – here’s the hymn that bears that name. Why this isn’t sung more at Christmas I will never know.