God’s Dearly Loved
“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17, NRSV)
We all appreciate it when someone notices our effort and gives us an affirming word. Gratitude helps maintain the motivation to persevere in difficult tasks. In the story of Jesus’ baptism, after having been dunked by John the Baptist, heaven opens up, a dove descends, and a voice from heaven offers an affirming word to Jesus—“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” What’s interesting to me is that up until that point, we don’t have much evidence of what Jesus had done. The gospel accounts jump from the birth narratives to the story of the boy Jesus in the temple and then to his baptism. The record of his accomplishments is pretty sparse.
I think this analysis is reflective of those of us who assume that our value is determined by what we do. We equate our worth with our contribution; however, perfect love doesn’t operate that way. God’s absolute love is not based on what one can produce. God’s unconditional love is based on who God is—and the scripture is clear that God IS love. In Jesus’ baptism, God declares his Son as his beloved, long before he began his teaching ministry—long before he ever healed anyone—long before he suffered and died on the cross—long before his resurrection from the dead. God loved Jesus NOT because of what he had done, but because it is in God’s nature to love.
Whenever we baptize an infant, a young person, or an adult, we baptize them in the name of Jesus; therefore, they are also included among those whom God loves—God’s beloved son or daughter! There is nothing required to earn God’s love—it’s a given—available to all who desire to receive it. The more we open ourselves to the fact that God loves us—that God can’t help but love us because God’s nature IS love—the more gracious we will be toward our Selves and toward others, too.