Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these … Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Matthew 19:14, 16 (NIV)
Have you ever thought about who you are, your identity as you see yourself, how others see you, and how God sees you? Matthew 19 contrasts two different identities. [What are the differences between the children and “rich young man”? How do you think they see themselves?]
The little child is totally dependent for food, clothing, everything. The little child’s identity is in his family – somebody’s child, somebody’s sister or brother. The little child clings to his mother and father because they are life itself. She is aware of her helplessness.
The other person is a very self-sufficient young man intent on building his own identity – what must I do? The child possesses very little, if anything. In fact, especially in those times, a child was legally considered a possession, whereas the rich young man saw himself as having many possessions. To one, the Kingdom is freely given, the other is intent on getting it – what must I do to get? The Greek word means to have i.e. own, possess. His identity was bound up in his doings and his possessions. [Have you ever seen your identity that way? As what you do or have done? What you possess?]
In these verses, the children were invited to simply come to Jesus and the Kingdom was given freely to them. Jesus invited the young man to enter also, to come and follow – but he would have to leave all his doings and possessions, his present identity, outside. He would need to become a dependent child, and that was something he felt he could not do.
For most of us, our identities are broken, the result of rejection and based on hurtful lies we have taken down deep into our souls. I am not (good, pretty, smart, etc.) enough. I am a disappointment. And worse, much worse. We spend our whole lives rebuilding our broken identities by doing, performing, acquiring. Trying to live up to somebody else’s expectations. Trying to be somebody that can be loved and accepted. Trying to prove we are worthwhile. Performing as an actress in the crazy, imaginary theatre in other people’s heads. Or, completely rejecting them all, becoming the rebel or the victim. [Have you ever felt this way? What are the lies you have listened to about yourself?]
Henri J.M. Nouwen[i] has written of how self-rejection is the enemy of our true identity, “… we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable … As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, ‘Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody’ … I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” [Do you feel that you have rejected yourself? Whose is the sacred voice? What does He say about you?]
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2
In this verse we are called “beloved children.” That word “beloved” means beloved, esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love. God sees and knows who we really are, who he made us to be. God loves that person and invites us to come right where we are – with all our warts and sins and problems. My identity is not what I “must do” or what I can “get,” like the rich young man in Matthew 19, or what I have done, or what has been done to me. My identity is found in simply accepting the invitation to come and be. [Come and be what?]
His. We are invited to be his little children, to belong to his family. To rest in him and be totally dependent on him for strength, faith, life, breath, food on the table, shelter over our heads, talents and gifts. Even the words that come out of our mouths when we pray. Even the willingness and grace to confess our sins and receive forgiveness and forgive others. Our ability to love others – it all comes from Him – everything.
And you also are among those who are called (invited) to belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:6
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12
Beloved, we are God’s children now. 1 John 3:2
The LORD your God is in your midst; he is a warrior who can deliver. He takes great delight in you; he renews you by his love; he shouts for joy over you. Zephaniah 3:17
Lord help me receive my true identity in You as your accepted and beloved child, a delight and a treasure to You. My identity is not in what I have done or what has been done to me, or what I can get or possess. Let me see that where my treasure is, there is my heart. Let You be all my treasure, all my identity, all my value, all my significance. Thank you for dying for me and shedding your blood on the cross to wash away all my wrong-doings and make it possible for me to be your child. I lay down all the lies that I have accepted about myself and l forgive myself and others. I accept your invitation to come.
I am a child of God
I am forgiven and washed clean
I am beloved
I am precious in His sight
I am His
[i] You are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living. 2017, p. 12.
This Bible study is taken from the blog To Discover, All Along, to Whom I Belong
Image copyright Jack Bair 2019