I’ve been reading Ephesians recently in which Paul writes about being “chosen in Christ”. Lots of ink has been spilt, and lots of arguments fought over exactly what it means to be chosen. It could mean any of the 3 options below (and probably others too):
- Some are chosen but not others.
- Everyone is chosen, but everyone needs to respond.
- Christ is the chosen one, and in him we too are chosen.
I am not going to enter that debate now. Not because it’s not important, or I don’t have particular opinions – it is and I do. But because far, far more important is what we are chosen for, who we are chosen by, and why we are chosen.
We are chosen for holiness in Ephesians 1 terms, or in Romans 8 terms to be conformed to the likeness of his son – chosen to display God’s love and grace to the world. Gen. 12:1-3 is the account of how God called Abraham, and spells out that Abraham was chosen so that he might be a blessing to others. Being chosen is about sharing in the life and love of God so that we can share it with others.
We are chosen by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in Christ, and sealed by the Spirit. Ephesians 1 is clear that the whole trinity is at work in our salvation. Chosen by the Father. So that the love he has for Christ he shares with us. In Christ we can hear the words “you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased”.
We are chosen because God loves us. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 reminds the Israelites that they were not chosen because they were great – indeed Moses seems quite keen to remind them often that they are a stiff necked rebellious bunch. Instead they were loved by God because… he loved them:
Deut 7:7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
God is a God of love, who keeps his promises to rescue and save.
Because of all this God’s choice should be a matter for rejoicing, not controversy. I love this hymn from John Bell of the Iona Community that I heard on a CD recently. I don’t remember ever singing it in Regent Chapel, but it has a definite feel of a hymn that would work well there:
- We rejoice to be God’s chosen not through virtue, work or skill,
But because God’s love is generous, unconformed to human will.
And because God’s love is restless, like the surging of the sea,
We are pulled by heaven’s dynamic to become, not just to be.
- We rejoice to be God’s chose, to be gathered to God’s side,
Not to build a pious ghetto or be steeped in selfish pride;
But to celebrate the goodness of the One who sets us free
From the smallness of our vision to become, not just to be.
- We rejoice to be God’s chosen, to align with heaven’s intent,
To await where we are summoned and accept where we are sent.
We rejoice to be God’s chosen and, amidst all that we see,
To anticipate with wonder that the best is yet to be.