The great news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God is a lavish, prodigal, extravagant Lover and we are the beloved of God. Being the beloved is not the opposite of being a sinner. "Sinner" and "beloved" are not mutually exclusive terms. We are not either sinners or the beloved. We are beloved sinners and the sinful beloved. This is why the statement, "You are my beloved son/ daughter on whom my favor rests," conveys the good news. The good news is, first, a revelation of who God is and, second, a revelation about who we are and what God offers and hopes for us.  

Some truths are truer than others. Whereas it is true that we are sinners, the radical message of the gospel of Jesus is that our belovedness is a truer truth than our sinfulness. Before there was original sin there was original splendor. Unlike our sinfulness, which is expressed most tangibly in what we do or fail to do, our belovedness has nothing to do with what we do. It is a reality before we do or think or say anything. Our belovedness is rooted in who God is and, therefore, who we truly are at the core of our being as children, images, and partners of God. For Christians, belovedness is similar to what Buddhist mean by "our original face" before we were born. Our belovedness is our spiritual DNA. It cannot be changed or denied. Our sinfulness (let alone human frailty, miscues, wrong turns, or foibles), does not trump or negate our belovedness because our be-lovedness is solely dependent on God who is extravagant lover. 

"We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts. Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs.”

-Henri Nouwen

Belovedness is not ours by right or reward. Rather, it is the deepest reality of who we are as sacred images of God. Belovedness is not something we ourselves can bring about, induce, or influence. Our belovedness is "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end." What remains to be seen is whether our life is an "Amen" to this truth. When we truly realize our belovedness we are likely to experience an "incredible lightness of being." Awakening to our own or other people's belovedness, to the belovedness of creation, often elicits existential embarrassment, awe, gratefulness, tears, joy, and incredible freedom.  

But from what and for what are we freed? Freedom from perfectionism and scrupulosity; freedom from fear or reducing the spiritual life to following rules in order not to disappoint God or to make God mad or to avoid punishment. Freedom for responsiveness. Knowing we are unable to earn our belovedness frees us to experience it as ineffable mystery and divine gratuity. Knowing we cannot perform for it or do anything to deserve or acquire it, frees us simply to accept and respond to it.  

Sinfulness, among other things, is the fruit of not believing in or honoring our own or others' belovedness, that is, not believing in who God is. Although there are many people (including some, if not all, of us at times) who do not know or think of themselves as the beloved of God, in truth there is no human who is not the beloved. For Christians, it is impossible to believe someone is human but not the beloved of God. I am the beloved, you are the be-loved, because of who God is-the one, true, wild and extravagant Lover. Holiness is the graced response to the incomprehensible surprise of our belovedness, the only appropriate response to God who not only created us this way but who invites us into a partnership characterized by passionate, prodigal Love.

Dan Miller

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