The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Chosen by God and What that Means: Good News from Christianity

Way back in the last millennia, author and Christian theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen was asked by his friends from other faiths or without faith to write an introductory guide to Christianity that would explain to them why he believed as ardently in Jesus Christ as he did. Nouwen took up the challenge and produced Life of the Beloved. I wanted to spend a few minutes providing for you quotes on what it means to be chosen by God ... and what it does not. I think Henri Nouwen has it right ... and so many who choose to create dividing lines and litmus tests do not.

Here is what Nouwen says about being chosen (well, part of what he says), pp. 53-54:

So, I do believe deeply that, in order to live a spiritual life, we have to claim for ourselves that we are "taken" or "chosen." Let me try to expand a bit on these words. When I know that I am chosen, I know that I have been seen as a special person. Someone has noticed me in my uniqueness and has expressed a desire to know me, to come closer to me, to love me. When I write to you that, as the Beloved, we are God's chosen ones, I mean that we have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as unique, special, precious beings. It is very hard for me to express well the depth of meaning the word "chosen" has for me, but I hope you are willing to listen to me from within. From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God's heart. ... The eyes of love had seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal life. 

Now, remember, Henri Nouwen is writing for people outside of his own Christian faith. See the inclusion here? Let's explore what the author says being chosen is not on pages 54-56 in his own words:

We touch here a great spiritual mystery: To be chosen does not mean that others are rejected. It is very hard to conceive of this in a competitive world such as ours. ... To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive choice, but a compassionate choice. 

Henri Nouwen goes on to state that often in our competitive society, when we feel we haven't been chosen and others have it leads us to "... aggression, violence, and war." The author states we must not give up that word "chosen" to the world that would use it in this way. Instead, "You must hold on to the truth that you are the chosen one. That truth is the bedrock on which you can build a life as the Beloved (p. 56)."

As one theologian who has spent a lifetime studying Jesus states (and who is Jewish), she believes that Jesus' statement that he is the way, truth, and life, and that none come to God except through him is a statement of Jesus' ownership of the right to choose who gets to God and she asserts that she rests in the strong belief that Jesus is a far more generous judge than any human. Keep that close to you the next time someone uses John 3:16 as a litmus test against you or those you know and love.

You are chosen, you are beloved, will you accept that? Can you? It isn't easy.


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