But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13


God has a funny way of turning everything on its head. In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, as well as for many hundreds of years before Him, children were looked down upon and not seen as having much value in society. There were just more mouths to feed—nuisances at best—and better suited to working silently than anything else. Child labor was the norm in the family business and, as a group, children were marginalized and discounted. But not so in God’s eyes.

The New Testament lays great weight on becoming children—namely, God’s children. To become His child is the whole design of salvation, and to go on being His child is the way we grow up into all things in Christ. To be like Him, you have to be a child. He came as the Christ Child in order to liberate us from the slavery of sin—remember, children were seen as useless, good for nothing other than slave’s work—so that we could rediscover what becoming a child of God would mean.

Here John says that anyone who believes in Jesus receives the right to be called—or nicknamed—a child of God. God, whenever He redeems something, He renames it. Humanity had become slaves, their weakness and vulnerability making them susceptible to strong-armed tactics by cruel powers, both human (like empire) and demonic (like Satan). In our weakness and helplessness, we the human race came to value strength and would yield to it however it presented itself, even if it oppressed us. We often see that oppressed groups angle to seize the strength their oppressors have, so that at the very least they can rule their own lives, if not rule over their oppressors and reverse the oppression.

God, on the other hand, values weakness and does not aim to be the strength that rules over us. Unlike those oppressors who overrule our will and desires, He wants to rule from within the center of us and to be the strength in us that reshapes our will with our cooperation, like a good Father would. To make that possible, He insists that the way forward is to be reborn. He offers us that new birth, then leaves it up to us if we will take up His offer. He won’t overrule our will but seeks our cooperation with His will that we be reborn. Yes, He wants us to want for ourselves what He wants for us—then He will rule from within our will.

It’s by faith in Him, and receiving Him in His weakness on the cross, that He affects for us a brand new birth, making us children of God. We are reborn in the zeal—the jealous love, the fiery passion—of God.