By Pastor Tim
We went to a beautiful wedding recently. Not only was the bride magnificent and the groom knightly but Christ was central. While waiting for the service to begin I kept thinking, after he greets the people and gives the invocation the pastor will start with, “Dearly beloved…” Remember when most weddings began that way? “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here…” This wedding began with, “Dear friends, Jesus tells us…” You can’t get much better than that but still, I miss “Dearly beloved…”
You see, “Dearly beloved…” may sound like something pastors just say to start off weddings but that word “beloved,” Prof. Mueller liked to say, is the “word that changed the world.” It was actually the answer to a question that has perplexed mankind for centuries. “What’s a person worth?” It’s a question that sounds simple enough to answer but really it isn’t. You have to think it through a bit.
If you ask, “What’s a car worth?,” there is still a thing called the Kelley Blue Book. You Google it now and based on the make, model, and condition you can find out the worth of a car. If you have a Ford Pinto let me save you some time. You don’t need to bother searching for the Kelley Blue Book and you don’t need to go out and get The Club. Just leave it out front with the keys in it and the windows down. Maybe you will be blessed by thieves.
If you want to know what a house is worth it depends on the size of the house and the age of the house and as they say in real estate, “Location, location, location.” A friend put me onto a website called Zillow. You just plug in the address and you find what your house is worth. One house you want to try to put in there is called Mount Vernon. Zillow didn’t give me a worth for this house and none of us could ever hope to afford to buy it.
Mt. Vernon is beyond our wealth not because of size, location, or condition. No, Mt. Vernon is priced out of our league because of who it belongs to and who used to live in that house, only a guy named George Washington.
This house is priceless because it is his, when you honor that home, you honor the one who made his home there. Mt. Vernon has a special kind of worth that is not based on beauty or practical value. There’s a brilliant philosopher, a supposedly Christian thinker, at Yale, Nicholas Wolterstorff. He calls this kind of worth, “bestowed worth.” This would be worth that is not earned but that comes as a gift.
So now let’s get back to the question that “beloved” answers, “What’s a human being or a person worth?” Wolterstorff claims “there is no way you can find a secular foundation to base the worth or value of a person outside of God.” Isn’t that an interesting statement? This is way beyond my thinking to exhaust all the possibilities to see if that is a true statement but it gives a thinking person pause.
The example Dr. Wolterstorff gave was something like this: “Some try to say human beings are worthy because they are rational. Human beings are priceless because they have a unique capacity for reason. Well, then what if someone has a diminished capacity for reason? Do they then have less value as a human being?” We wouldn’t say that, would we? So again, “What is the worth of a person? Who are the beloved?”
Thank heavens the good Lord clears this up for us! God inspires an aged John to pen these words in 1 John 3:1,2 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Do you see the phrase in verse 1, “… what great love.” In the old King James it was translated: “Behold, what manner of love.” As we said the NIV 2011 translates that phrase “See what great love.” But there is a Greek word that is used here that they are translating as “great” and the problem with the word is that it is an idiom.
We have all kinds of idiomatic expressions, don’t we? “He kicked the bucket. It’s raining cats and dogs.” I tried once to translate and explain to a Malawian evangelist in a downpour of torrential rain what the English idiomatic expression “It’s raining cats and dogs,” means. You can just imagine how that went. He spent the rest of the day asking about bush dogs falling from the sky in America and what that has to do with rain.
But what God wants to communicate to us with this idiomatic phrase is that there is rightly a sense of wonder, an impression of awe for how Father God loves us. One seminary professor suggests we translate that phrase, “See what great love,” with one of these options: “How out of this world? How interplanetary? Or maybe “How colossally impossible it is to believe that God loves us like this?
Can I ask you something personal? Do you have this sense of wonder about you as a deeply loved child of God? Do you frequently find yourself saying, in light of your sin and God’s grace shown in a redeemer who has forgiven you, “How out of this world? How unreal? How galactic that God would love me and save me and then make me his child?” The Pharisee in me never wonders that. After all, salvation is a wage to be earned to him. The legalist in me refuses to think that lest he stop suffocating me and the sinner in me would never believe that as worthless as I am. But the blood bought child of God trusting in the gift of grace knows her or his “bestowed worth.” This one says in amazement, “How out of this world it is that God loves me and has made me his child!”
So now you know the answer to the question, “What is a human being worth?” Each one is worth the price of God’s Son. And who are the beloved ones? Each person is a beloved one to Jesus for “God so loved the people of the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Your worth rests on this: you are a child of King Jesus. You are the beloved of God. You are an object of his intense affection. You have been named the heir of Jesus Christ and are saved by his grace. But wait there is more!
When Jesus came he said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). Move over Mt. Vernon, right!? Turns out there is a house of even greater value than George Washington’s home. It’s your house. Jesus has made his home in you. What value could ever exceed a home lived in by King Jesus? You, my friend, are the “Dearly beloved by Jesus.”
Janice Smith sent this story in to a magazine called Christian Reader. “For weeks, my son, Bill, and his wife, Kathy, were gathering and pricing things for a yard sale. Their youngest daughter, Meadow Dawn, was fascinated by the whole process. On the day of the sale, Meadow wandered around, then headed back to her mother. “Everything has a price tag. I want a price tag, too!” Even though Kathy explained to Meadow that she wasn’t for sale, the 3-year-old persisted. Thinking quickly, Kathy made another tag and stuck it on Meadow’s dress. It said, “Priceless!” So it is with you, my friend, so it is with you! The child of God boasts of such grace every day and thrills to live for Jesus in light of it as his dearly beloved.