Nature versus nurture. To what extent are we simply what our innate nature decides we are? And to what extent are we the product of our influences, experiences, and circumstances? It seems like a never ending back and forth. But the third chapter of 1 John is weighing in. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1) Nature wins out, says John. Children is of God is what we are and no influence, experience or circumstance will change that. This identity is a gift, not something bought or applied for – we are children of God because God wants us to be.
As if that’s not good enough news all on its own, being children of God is not even the end of the story. We are being transformed, refined, purified into something even more special, even more holy. “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.” (3:2) The love and grace of God are continually transforming us and we don’t quite know what the end result will be. As of yet, such knowledge is just out of reach, too wonderful to imagine. But what we can say with certainty is that we are becoming more and more like Jesus, being completely remade in his image, seeing him with more and more clarity. John goes on to say that we are becoming pure like he is pure, righteous like he is righteous. Whatever is true of Jesus is becoming more and more true of us, too. How has the transforming love and grace of God been active in our hearts and minds in the last five, ten, twenty years? What will we be in the next five, ten, twenty years?
However, John has no interest in painting too rosy a picture. We still must confront the reality of sin. Though evil has been overcome (as John said himself only a few verses prior), sin is annoyingly persistent. And the effect sin can have on us is not to be taken lightly. “Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. No one who sins has either seen him or known him.” (3:4, 6) This language is intense, maybe even frightening, but its not meant to create anxiety about how God feels about us. God is not some mean-spirited supervisor standing over our shoulder, counting every little mistake we make and ready to condemn us at a moment’s notice. That God isn’t real. The God who has given us our irrevocable identity as his children is real. Sin need not create anxiety, but it must be taken seriously. Sin is lawlessness, says John. Sin is to live utterly out of sync with the way God has ordered his good creation to exist. Sin is rebellion. Sin is resistance to what God is transforming us into.
So let’s not resist. God is transforming us further and further into the image of his Son Jesus Christ, and sin is losing its grip on us. Every contaminant that would pollute the purity of Christ’s fullness within us is being removed. So we look ahead to what God is making of us in the next five, ten, twenty or more years. And we let our imaginations run wild.