I was walking next to Jesus - not in a hurry - just chatting and listening and enjoying His company. He was showing me the world and people all over the world. Every person we saw was wearing a name tag, and every name tag said the same thing: "Beloved of God."
Suddenly we were in a tin shack. It was dark and claustrophobic. There was a man covered in sores lying on a thin mattress. The sores were so infected that maggots were crawling in them. On his chest was the name tag that said "Beloved of God." I was taken aback. Jesus bent down, kissed him, and greeted him tenderly, "Hello, Beloved of God." As we turned to leave, the man's face morphed into mine. It was my body covered in maggot-infested sores. "No!" I said emphatically and in shock. "That's not me!" But the scene disappeared.
We were now in a large city, walking on a sidewalk, dwarfed by the skyscrapers overhead. Everyone we passed had on their name tag. Jesus walked over to a homeless man curled up against the wall of a building. He was dirty, disheveled and smelled of urine. And he, too, was wearing a name tag: "Beloved of God." Jesus bent down, kissed him, and greeted him tenderly, "Hello, Beloved of God." I was repulsed by the smell. As we turned to leave, the man's face morphed into mine. "No! Stop it!" I shouted. "I'm not him!" But the scene disappeared once again.
I found myself in a large megachurch with plush carpets and colour-coordinated banners on the immense walls. An arrogant pastor was preaching against homosexuals - hateful, judgmental ranting - and on his chest was the same name tag: "Beloved of God." "Aw, Jesus! You can't be serious," I protested. But He was. He walked over to the man, kissed him, and greeted him tenderly, "Hello, Beloved of God." And then, a split second before it happened, I looked over at Jesus said, "No. NO!" But I couldn't stop it. The pastor's face morphed into mine. "Take it off!" I screamed. "I'm not like him. You know I'm not him!" I couldn't bear to look at that... hideous monster... so I looked down. And it was then I noticed that I, too, was wearing a name tag: "Beloved of God."
In that moment I realised that all the things I think I am - and all the things I vehemently think I'm not - fall away. It all completely falls away, and the only thing I can stand on - the only merit I have - is being the beloved of God. My identity - what I perceive it to be - isn't actually my identity at all. There are only three words that define me: "Beloved of God."
This is scary because it exposes me for who I really am - Beloved of God. It is equalising because I am no better or worse than the next man - Beloved of God. It is freeing because the only thing I can give, receive, wear, cast off, take, extend, hide behind, hoard or throw away - is the love of God.
Everything else falls away in the end.