When I was a young teenager I use to groan with embarrassment at my father’s corny, dry jokes. Now I have the same sense of humor. I used to role my eyes when my father would try to kid around with little kids at church. Now I do the same. I open my mouth now when I talk to my sons and I hear my father speaking. I get that same poof in my hair when it gets long, and I wait too long to get a haircut, just like he did when I was young.
Genetics win out. I am my father’s son.
So, too, the recipients of John’s letter. They too are children of their Father:
Look at the remarkable love the father has given us — that we should be called God’s children! That indeed is what you are. (3:1)
But just like I wasn’t very similar to my father at thirteen — in fact I wanted to be totally different — these Christians may, in fact, be God’s children but they are still struggling to mature into that identity:
Beloved ones, we are now, already, God’s children; it hasn’t yet been revealed what we are going to be. We know that when he is revealed we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (3:2)
With God there are some things that are already true, but they are not yet fully true. Some spiritual realities take time to come into being. Some take a total recreation that will only come at the great New Creation. But this we can rest assured in: genetics win out. Those who are truly fathered by God, those who are truly God’s children, they will become like the father:
Everyone who is fathered by God does not go on sinning, because God’s offspring remain in him; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been fathered by God. (3:9)
Now, is the time for John’s recipients (and for us) to truly be the children of God we already are. Make it a reality. Put it into action. The ultimate spiritual change will happen through spiritual power alone. However, spirituality is not just an ethereal concept for the spiritual mind; it is intended to be lived out bodily in the flesh.
Children, let us not love in word, or in speech, but in deed and in truth. (3:18)