1 John 3:1a
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!
This sentence is so packed with meaning that it’ll take a whole DEEP to unpack it. First off, “that” is a purpose construct. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, for the purpose that we should be called children of God! So we are given some special manner of love (ESV says, “kind of love”) for the purpose that we’d be called His children. Okay, great. What manner of love is that?
The Greek word translated as “love” here is a-ga-pane (ἀγάπην). That’s a conjugation of agapé, which is sacrificial love—putting another’s well-being above one’s own. But that doesn’t answer the question because the question is literally, “What manner of agapé …?” So, the Father hasn’t just bestowed agapé on us; He’s bestowed some manner of agapé—for the purpose that we would be called His children.
Okay, great. What manner of agapé is that?
The Greek word translated as “manner” (ποταπὴν pot-a-pane) means either “what sort” or “how great.” So, it could be translated as great instead of manner. Sure enough, the NIV says, “See what great love …” Opinions, even translations, differ. Our question isn’t answered by the nuances of the Greek.
So, let’s use scripture to interpret scripture. Where else do we see people called children of God?
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. … But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; — Matthew 5:9, 44–45a
So, it’s definitely a manner—and an extreme one at that. Loving your enemies is love that’s more than just large. It’s different. It’s supernatural. Getting someone to call you a son of God takes abnormal love; it takes love that throws folks for a loop.
Love that looks supernatural is supernatural.
This is the thing that Christians (including me) habitually miss—trying harder isn’t the secret sauce. Yes, disciplines matter, but it’s God who does the heavy lifting.
You can’t learn to forgive your enemies by trying to forgive your enemies. If you could, no one would call you a son of God for doing it.
No, Daddy has to do it through you. That means prayer—disciplined prayer. The best time to start is when you don’t have any enemies.
And note well, your prayer could be asking God to provide an enemy for you to practice forgiveness on.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.