1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
I have lived for more than five decades in the embrace of Lutheran parishes. In this week of All Saints I have a gallery of faces and names that run through my head. You likely have a similar gallery. Inez, Margaret, Dorothy, Dave, Pat, Joanne, Neal, Herb, Melvin, and Gordon, just to name a few. It is quite the group. There are PhD’s and high school dropouts in there. Some had acid tongues and others were gentle souls who had endured great hardships. Many of them are with Jesus, some still are “working out their salvation with fear and trembling” as Paul said.
To all of them the Father has given his love, and they are called children of God. The world scoffs and denies this claim. They are not holy or perfect people. Indeed, they were each critically flawed in their own ways. Sin had broken them and eventually worked its death. The world only sees that and, as a result, cannot accept that they are children of God.
But the world and we ourselves are in for something of a surprise. Our true natures have not been revealed. That true nature was created in our baptism and now it often is obscured by the old man, the old creation which sin has so distorted. But make no mistake. Baptism did in fact create something new. Death shall wipe that old nature away. From our graves shall arise only the new which God has carefully nurtured throughout these days of our pilgrimage.
Did you notice that John says Jesus “appears?” He does not say that Jesus comes. Jesus is here the whole time, but we might not always see him. Likewise, this hidden nature of the Christian. It is there, in communion with this present Christ. Indeed, Christ is present within that nature. Read Galatians 2:20 and take it seriously. It is not I who live but it is Christ who lives in me. On that last day the veil will be lifted and all shall see him and all shall see us as we really are, the brightly-shining children of God (Philippians 2:15). Everyone who has this hope in Christ is pure, for Christ who lives in us is pure.