Who are you?
Some time ago, I attended track-and-field day for my young son, Sam. As a volunteer at the long jump station, I filled out a name tag and took my post. For some reason, I simply wrote “Sam’s Mom.” Child after child would pass through and they would immediately know that I belonged with that snappy little 3rd grade boy named Sam. We had a connection. Even after the event was through, children would run up to me and say, “Sam’s Mom—look at all the ribbons I won!” or “Sam’s Mom—can you watch me run?”
Knowing who I belonged to somehow made the kids feel like they knew me. We were buds. My name was not important in that particular context. But my relation to their friend was significant. Furthermore, as Sam’s Mom, I saw myself not as a teacher or writer or radio host, but as someone who was there to serve the 3rd graders during their special day.
It reminds me of the gospel writer, John.
In his gospel account, he writes about the unmatched and unparalleled love of God. John has often been described as the beloved disciple. This title is not given as a status symbol—Jesus did not play favorites. Jesus himself does not use this title for John or any other disciple. But rather, the beloved disciple was how John described himself in the gospel that bears his name.
On several occasions, John refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Listen in as he describes himself in the following verses…
One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him (Jesus). John 13:23
Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved standing nearby, and he said to her, “Woman, here is your son.” John 19:26a
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around and jumped into the water. John 21:20
Perhaps this was John’s way of exhibiting remarkable humility. Or, maybe his experience of being loved by Jesus was more precious to him than even his own name. John is said to have had a greater understanding of God’s loving nature because he experienced God’s love in a distinct way. He knew and experienced this love of God in a way that trumped everything else that he thought about himself. He was no longer just John. He was no longer just a fisherman, a sinner, a disciple-in-training or a flawed human being. His identity no longer came from what he did or didn’t do, but came from the One who knew all of these things about him, and yet loved him fully anyway. John’s based on his identity in relation to Christ. He simply saw himself as the one whom Jesus loved.
Imagine how our life might look different if we started from this assumption. I am the one whom Jesus loves. And as such, our worthiness would already be established. Our status would already be decided. We might pray differently or act differently toward our neighbors. We might love others with the same love he bestows on us.
He knows me.
He sees me.
And He still loves me.
I am the one whom Jesus loves.
When we think of ourselves this way, we begin to read Scripture differently. It is no longer for those people of that time. Each verse is written with us in mind. Imagine this paraphrase of John 3:16:
For God so loved [Jo] that He gave His only son, that since [Jo] believes in Him, [Jo] shall not perish but [Jo] shall have eternal life.
The Bible is personal. It’s God’s love letter to us. We are the ones whom Jesus loves.
How about putting that on your next nametag?