Once upon a time, a baby girl was born. The exact date and place are not known. If they had been known, they might have been important to the story, but we will never know them, so we build the story without them. All her life, the story of the beginning of who she is and who she came to be did not begin like other birth narratives, with broken waters, or a hurried trip to the hospital, or a long labour or a Caesarean scar; although her birth might have included all or some of those things, none of them were a part of her story.
It began with the phrase, “We chose you.” It was a popular mythology, for the adoptive parents, in an effort to make the child feel less stigmatised, to tell the child that she was chosen. The problem with that mythology is that it sets up unrealistic visions of a hopeful couple walking through a room filled with basinets in which happy healthy babies lay just waiting to be picked. The parents look at each baby carefully, inspecting each one— perhaps they even pick up each baby and practice holding them until they come to the one that is just right for them. That baby, they choose, and a happy family is formed. The baby and in fact for this story I have no recollection of that day, of course, but they tell me that it was a happy one.
When they say that the child they adopt was chosen, they are telling the truth. They made the choice to adopt this baby before they even met the baby, back when they began the process. They may have had an image of what their baby would look like, sound like, and be like. They may have imagined this little one as blonde or brown-haired, chubby and ruddy or fair and delicate. But what they were really imagining was not a set of features, but a real, live child. Their child. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
The promise that we are God’s children, chosen and precious, is this: God alone does the choosing, and God chose from before creation. We are chosen, not because of some specialness or gifts or talents or shiny features or skills that we have achieved. We are chosen for a purpose— in order that we might proclaim the mighty acts of the One who called us out of darkness into marvellous light. Even those locked in prison for acts we consider heinous are chosen and beloved of God. Of course many of the chosen do not recognise or want to know they are beloved of God. We are chosen for a life of service, and this impacts our life together as the church. This world is the place where we have the best and most frequent opportunity to be open and welcoming to all whom God has chosen, regardless of specialness or gifts or talents or shiny features, just as God has welcomed us. When God imagines us, it is not a set of features, but God’s real live child expressing all that love that is our God. Remember each one of you is beloved and called to be love.
However there are occasions when tough love is the best alternative, but the goal is still to love with gentle kindness and Spirit-led influence. So it is sad to see capital punishment used as the ultimate answer to criminal acts still in this world as recently occurred in Bali. Oh yes though all are beloved many do err and stray from God’s path. But remember we have the opportunity of God’s forgiveness to change and turn again to Gods path. Also we have to ask the question, “How do we love in the face of so many differences?” I believe love succeeds best when caring people express a sense of justice. I believe love succeeds as a long-term approach to almost any human affliction or trouble. It is important to use the power of love as a means of relating to people. When you do, you will occasionally (perhaps often) find yourself in less than appealing situations.
Many people who enter our lives looking for favours do not have nice and easy problems. If you stop to help with love, you may get your hands dirty, and it can be messy. It would be easy for most of you, right now, to share a time when you made a loving response to some problem and found yourself involved in ways you had not anticipated. Many of the troubles Jesus faced during his ministry can be traced to his radical commitment to justice and love. It is probably true that if you follow Jesus, you will find happiness and courage, but trouble as well. We must learn to love during good times and the bad. But we should always remember that love happens despite us and when we least expect it the good times and the bad. But we should always remember that love happens despite us and when we least expect it as we recognise that we too are chosen by our God.