Part 3: “And to All Those Who Believe”
By Sherita Harkness
Ever feel out of place? Are there people who make you feel less than welcome? It’s an experience most of us have had at some point, and the consequences of being on the receiving end of that kind of rejection, judgment, or even outright prejudice can stay with us our whole lives.
It happens because human beings are tribal creatures. We gravitate toward people who share our experiences, ideas, and social status, and we feel threatened by those who don’t. It sounds a little like high school, but it doesn’t always go away in adulthood, does it?
We’ve been talking about the state of the world leading up to that very first Christmas when John tells us that the “Word” of God entered our world in the person of Jesus. I’m sure it’s not surprising when I say that ancient cultures were dominated by these same social games. They determined a person’s value based on who their parents were, what their net worth was, or whether they looked like the people in power. There were even people who fully believed that religious salvation was purely a product of a person’s nationality—you had to be born in the right place, or you were out. Basically, every part of your existence, from whether you could own property to what happened to you in the afterlife, was based on birth, blood, or social status.
That’s why it’s so remarkable that when John describes the process of Jesus coming to Earth, he tells us, “to all those who believed, he gave the right to become children of God—born not of natural descent, nor human will, but born of God” (John 1:13 NIV). This was so revolutionary we might miss it: the new kind of community Jesus came to make possible wasn’t based upon nationality, ethnicity, family heritage, or social status. This was an inclusive community united by belief in the God of love, and the result was unprecedented. In one of the most fragmented societies in history, a group of believers from an incredible array of social classes and ethnic backgrounds came together with one goal: to show other people the grace Jesus had shown to them.
Possibly, for the first time in history, we see a diverse community gathered around the goal of living for the benefit of other people. Since then, followers of Jesus have often been distracted by the temptation to form tribes and impose what John calls “the will of men” on other people. Yet the vision and desire for the community we find so beautifully described in John 1 remains the same.
God is love, and he invites us to partner with him as people who work together to redeem a world where it often feels like everything is broken. The Christmas season is a reminder of our call to “become children of God.” This Christmas, let’s adopt each other in grace, love, truth, understanding, inclusivity, joy, and peace as a family in Christ.