I use that salutation purposefully, knowing how strange it must sound to contemporary ears: “Dear Beloved?” We live in an age of quickly shot-off emails and spontaneous texts that begin with an informal “Yo” or “Hey”(if there’s any salutation at all). But let me tell you why I use “beloved” in my weekly message to the church.
First, I’m imitating the pastor who has shaped me more than any other. Pastor David Johnson of Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove is retiring in November from 38 years of pastoring the same church! This was my church during my most formative years (age 16-26), and he always addressed the congregation with “beloved” in his heartfelt sermons that fed my soul for so many years. I want to be like him and this is one small way his ministry has spilled over into mine.
Second, this is one of the main words the New Testament uses to address God’s people. This is the Father’s loving title for the Son, and then Paul, Peter, James and John adopted it for the believers in their early churches. Here’s a sampling:
“Behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matt 17:5)
“Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord” (Rom. 16:8).
“To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (2 Tim 1:2).
“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, let every man be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58).
“Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved”(Phil 4:1).
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God” (1 John 4:7).
Now, here’s my word for you today. Many of the titles you carry and roles you play in your daily lives demand something from you or are connected to what you DO. But bearing the title “Beloved” is entirely passive. It’s not about what we’ve done or are called to do, or who we want to be or might day become. It’s a declaration of who we already ARE in Christ.
In a busy, over-worked culture that often treats us as “human-doings”, we need regular reminders straight from the Creator that we are “human-beings.” We need to quite literally BE-LOVED.
And you ARE beloved. No matter your performance, or worthiness, or background, or job title, or married status, or spiritual track record this week.
As a pastor, I am charged with two responsibilities that may often seem at odds. On the one hand, I am charged with the task of making disciples which involves demanding a lot from you — e.g., “Deny yourselves, take up your cross and follow [Jesus]” (Mark 8:34).
On the other hand, I have the holy privilege of declaring your true baptismal identity, i.e., your “belovedness”, over you as often as possible. Only once we know WHO we are and WHOSE we are, can we begin walking the hard and demanding road of discipleship.
This often requires casting off other false titles and identities thrust onto us by the Enemy, the Accusing voice within. Its the voice that gets you thinking…
BUT that’s not who you are in Christ.
In Christ I AM BELOVED.
So, my beloved in Christ, may you find yourself immersed today in the ocean of God’s favor toward you. Step out of the darkness and bask in the midday sonlight of your beloved-ness, your chosen-ness, your rescued-ness. Just take a moment this week to BE LOVED.
Grace and peace in Christ Jesus our Lord!