“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and we such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Of course the world does not know the children of God; it did not know Jesus, it cannot know us. Jesus says that if we were of the world that the world would love us (John 15:19). Twice in John 17 Jesus says that we are not of the world, even as He is not of the world (verses 14 and 16). Yet, as the Father has sent Jesus into the world Jesus sends us into the world (John 17:18; 20:21).
We can be identified with our Father and Lord Jesus, or we can be identified with the world, but we cannot do both without losing our center of gravity; we cannot rightly claim to be the children of God and also the children of the world – for the children of the present age are subject to the prince of the power of the air…why would we align ourselves with the enemy of our Father God?
We should not expect to be recognized by the world, for the world did not, and does not, recognize Jesus. Any Jesus that the world recognizes, any Jesus that the world pays homage to, is not likely to be the real Jesus of the Gospel, is not likely to be the Jesus of the Resurrection who commands worship and obedience.
As children ashamed of a parent, or ashamed of a sibling, how often do we portray our Father and Lord Jesus as something they are not? How often do we gloss over their demands for righteousness? For repentance? For total obedience? How often do we portray God as a sugar daddy, indulgent, looking the other way, making excuses for our behavior? How often is Jesus represented as wishy-washy anything-goes nebulous love?
As we love one another and as we are one in Christ we pray that the world will see and hear the Gospel (John 13:34-35; 17:21); but we also know that until the end of the age the world, in and of itself, not only will not know us but that it will often persecute us. In one sense the measure of our witness might be the measure of our persecution – of the resistance that we encounter. Let us be thankful when we are permitted to live in peace, but let us not flinch when that peace is removed.
The idea that the world does not know us comes with us being objects of the Father’s love, it comes with us being called children of God. Our Father bestows an identity upon us that is His own, we are called by His Name and by the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are children of the Trinity. The Name of our God, of His City, and the Name of Jesus are being written upon us and within us (Revelation 3:12). Adopted into the family of God we are being formed into the image of His firstborn Son (Romans 8:29).
The world needs us to be who we are in Jesus Christ, it needs us to live as the children of God. How sad that we should not fulfill our role as sons and daughters of God in our generation. How glad that we should. Some people recognized Jesus, some did not. Some caught a glimpse and then lost it, they turned away. Some were captured by His light and life.
The world may not recognize us; what is important is that our Great Shepherd recognizes us and calls us by name. After all, it is vital that others see Him and not us; and we can pray that through us they will see Him.
It is an amazing thing that God loves us, that He calls us His children – quite amazing.
To quote an old hymn:
“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Chr: Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead