That is how we are addressed in the Apostle John’s letters to the churches. In some of our Bible translations, “beloved” has been lost in translation. The more neutral “Dear friends” has been chosen, but this is a really unfortunate choice in an age when it’s possible to have 1,147 friends.
The original Greek word the author uses is agapetoi, from the word agape, and is, literally, “you who are loved.” This is how Scripture addresses us: “You who are loved.” John’s famous “God is love” section (1 John 4:7-12) begins by addressing us thus. We’re one word into that text, agapetoi, and we already know where we stand. “You who are loved.” In a sense, John wouldn’t have to tell us anything else.
Have you ever received a love letter that was addressed to you with something like “My dearest love” or “You whom I adore and cherish?” Enough has already been said, right? By the way, if you just thought to yourself, “I haven’t received a letter like that,” you are forgetting that the Apostle John has written a letter to you in which you are addressed as “the beloved.” You are called “beloved” six times in John’s first letter and another four times in John’s third letter.
Beloved. That’s the good news of Jesus Christ in one word. Beloved. That’s the grace of God in one word. You are loved. Period. Before you have done anything to demonstrate your lovability, before you have even taken a breath today – in fact, before you were even conceived in your mother’s womb – you were loved by God. Unmerited love and favor. This is grace. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So although this one word could be enough to capture the entire gospel of Jesus Christ, we do need to know more about this divine love. Is this the “I love pizza” sort of love? Or is this the “I want something from you” kind of love? Or is this the kind of love that says “I love you because I need you because you complete me?” The author goes on to explain the shape of this divine agape.
God showed us what his love looks like in this way: God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him. Don’t miss the “God sent” part. The God of the universe pursued us, came to where we live. On God’s own initiative, the incarnate God came to us. “In this is love” the text says, “not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son….”
Why did God come to us in the flesh? To wipe away the sin barrier that once stood between us and God so that we might enjoy eternal community with the Father, Son and Spirit! In other words, he came so that we might truly live. All you need is love: not the “I need you because you complete me” kind of love, but the “I came and laid down my life for you” sort of agape love. And indeed you’ve got it!
Beloved! Oh, how Christ’s love compels us!
Peter Little is the pastor at Community Presbyterian Church in Buckley and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.