John 1:12-13

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

John qualifies here briefly and importantly what it means to be a child of God by means of contrast. It is, in short, something more.

Something more than the pain and paucity of physical life.
Something more than the desires of the flesh.
Something more than being dominated by the will of others.

To be a child of God is something more.

I don’t think that John means to deny our physical, mortal existence, or to hold it in contempt, as some have accused him over the years. I believe, rather, that he acknowledges, claims and values our mortality and physicality – why else will he momentarily proclaim that the Word of God takes on our flesh? – but rather acknowledges its limitations. Life as we know it, life as children of the earth, is beautiful and sweet, to be sure, but also brief and too often painful.

So to be born as a child of God is different, released from the bonds of mere flesh and bone, no longer constrained by the needs and desires of the flesh, no more susceptible to the will and whim of others.

St. Paul says it a little differently, but the message is the same: “For freedom Christ has set you free” (Gal. 5:1). To be a child of God is, finally, to be free. Jesus himself will later promise in this very Gospel that, “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (8:36).

To be a child of God, then, is to be free…in time. This doesn’t deny either the joy or limitations of our physical life here and now. At its best, John’s affirmation invites us to embrace both the joy and the limitations of our mortal life because we recognize that there is also something more. And sensing that there is something beyond our immediate experience grants us the grace and courage to face whatever may be ahead with hope.

Prayer: Dear God, when we are weighed down by the present challenges and struggles, remind us that all we can see around us is not all there is, so that we may find the strength, hope, and courage to persevere and flourish in the meantime. In Jesus’ name, Amen.