I John 3:1-8
Our readings from John this morning speak of knowing and seeing ultimate reality, and both acts hinge on Jesus. In the gospel, Jesus says: “I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me, I know the Father.”, and in the Letter from John, the author speaks of our relationship to Jesus, saying: “when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Putting the two together, we can make the conclusion that by coming to know Jesus, we come to know God and ourselves. As we pray more and live more like Jesus, we slowly learn the meaning of life.
That knowledge of God, Jesus, ourselves, the universe and everything in it that we obtain from living in God is not really intellectual or academic knowledge, although that is a part of it. It is existential knowledge – built into our bones and our soul; it is experiential knowledge – something we do; it is intimate knowledge – like the Biblical term for sexual union; it is instinctual knowledge – like knowing how to breathe; and it is habitual knowledge – like learning how to ride a bicycle or play a musical instrument by practicing so that one eventually does not need to think about it in order to do it.
The knowledge and vision we receive from abiding in God and following Jesus is the knowledge and vision of reality, because God is the basis of reality. God is the only means of existence. Everything else exists because God brings it into being, and so the only way to ever experience truth is by seeing God as the source and basis of everything, including ourselves. The more we come to know God, the more we come to know ourselves, because we are made in the image of God. So as this existential, experiential, intimate, instinctual, and habitual knowledge grows in us, the more we become like God (our origin). We become more peaceful, joyful, and creative as we become more like the creator and source of peace and joy. We become more loving, merciful, and tolerant even while keeping the highest standards of morality as we become more like the loving, merciful, and tolerant judge of the universe who expects mature behavior from us and yet knows firsthand from his incarnation as Jesus how hard it is to always exhibit it.
As we grow in this knowledge and vision of Godliness and humanness, all the fear and falsehood that we put between ourselves, God, and each other slowly melts away as we realize there is no need for fear. We become more like God and more our true selves. We are not God, and we do not become God – that would be short-changing our humanity. We are beautifully human and will become more proud of and grateful for our humanity the closer we grow to God. Sometimes it seems like we grow too slowly, or even regress. We can’t control our growth (only God does that), but we can foster the growth that God gives us, and we can avoid those things that we know will cause us to regress. God has a high enough opinion of us to give us the freedom to discipline ourselves, rather than forcing maturity upon us. If God’s opinion of us is so high, ours should be, too. As Jesus says: “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” John tells us what Jesus and the Father know about us: “Beloved, we are God’s children now”. He goes further and tells us what we need to always remember about ourselves: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”
One way to purify ourselves is to stop living the lie that we and others are not good enough for each other, for ourselves, or for God. We are God’s children now. We don’t need to wait to start acting like that. We can be grateful for and respectful of our lives and the lives of those around us. We can honor our common humanity and encourage each others’ maturity as we all struggle with the temptation to stop growing or even regress back to an infantile state. God is with us the whole way. We are worth enough for God to call us his children, and we are worth enough to call ourselves and each other that, too. AMEN