Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. ... No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:12-13, 18)
My oldest daughter is 14, and she is beginning that phase where being seen with me is not cool. Or better to say, she would find it embarrassing if her friends spotted her with her dad. I can torture her with a PDA, then watch her look around in the hope she doesn't know anyone nearby. I'm not a nerdy dad, but I understand where she's at in her life.
We live in a culture of detachment. We equate maturity with individualism. We don't want to be identified with our parents. (Try telling your wife she's like her mom and let me know how that works out.) In the teen years, especially with today's electronic media, a child's social disconnect from their parents is a given. We even encourage separation, that our kids “make a name for themselves.”
It was not like this in Jesus' time. In ancient near eastern cultures, identity is found in group association. The group was, in the very least, your family. To be called a “son of” your father or a “daughter of” your mother was a badge of honor. It meant you were like them. It was not only a term of identity, it was a description of your character. Family bonds were so tight that the children typically shared their parents' values, and people could assume the parents' values were imputed to their children. When Jesus is called the Son of God, it is a term of identity with the Father. It is not, as Jehovah's Witnesses think, a term of separation. The connection is so strong that Jesus' use of the term was considered blasphemy (see John 5:18).
Jesus proved himself to be his Father's son. John writes that though no one has ever seen God, Jesus made him known. He's referring to the love and actions of Jesus when he writes that. By our faith in Christ, we attain the same right. We become children of God. By our cultural framework this means little, but by Jesus', nothing could be more descriptive of who we are and how we should live. We share in a restored relationship with our Father through the work of Christ on the cross. We will be with him forever. As his children, we are just like him.
Or at least, we should be. We do represent him, whether we choose to live that way or not. Could you say, “If you know me, then you know God also, because we're just the same”? That is what he wants of us. He doesn't just expect it, he works within us to make it so, if we allow him. We must not only identify, but share his values and goals. We reflect him to the world. It is the miracle God offers to others, this transformation in our own lives.
We are in a culture that misunderstands what Jesus was all about. He isn't the way he is portrayed. When we love people, we need to be able to say to them, “What you're seeing in me is the Lord Jesus.” A message of salvation that doesn't make a difference in our own lives is going nowhere. It doesn't so much reflect badly on us as it does on him.
If we have received him, we not only have the right to be called the children of God, we have the responsibility. We need to get over our individualism and grab tightly to our Father.