Adoption and Identity: A Different Type of Purity


See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. – 1st John 3:1-3

I’m at a loss for adoption language through out the old Testament. I mean I’d love a narrative to grab on and to see this passage through, but the closest I can think of is Elijah and Elisha. Not terribly helpful if I’m honest. Probably a few good images to pull from there, and frankly, it has the “against the world” undercurrent (or just overt current) throughout the narrative.

It’s not necessary to tie everything to narrative, but it helps develop ideas in my book.

But here it is, an adoption by God. A decree that we should be called children of the most high God.

It rewrites our identity in a single thrust. We were children of the world, now we are what Christ calls ‘born from heaven’. It’s a decree that changes who we are entirely into something that we cannot fully understand.

In away, wrapping our head around earthly reality is not utterly beyond belief, but it’s still close. This new identity, this true identity is now before us with no boundaries or scale. It’s beyond the map, and I’m sure emblazoned on the edge of that reality there is a tag hanging just above the horizon that says, “This way to the dragons”, or more likely “this way to the resurrection”.

Then we are told to purify ourselves – as part of following the hope we have in him.


For those that think that think belief defined as some weird sort of intellectual affirmation is all we need, this flies up as a bit of a problem. Yet, it’s part of the mechanism of grace, a healing of our wills that occurs when we start setting our minds on the things of God.

That could probably require some elaborating.

But not now. I have another bone to pick.

Purity in our culture is usually racked up to some sort of sex-ed talk. Purity = no sex before marriage. But if that’s the case, then this is the most out of context verse in the Bible joined by almost every other passage about purity. Even the virginity of Mary is not her purity. The elevation of sexual abstinence to this place does not help us grasp what purity is really about.

It isn’t that sexual abstinence isn’t important, there is plenty of research out there and plenty of scripture to talk about the fulfillment and happiness that comes from sex within a committed relationship. but abstinence isn’t purity as a whole.

Within the the Old Testament context we see purity as a preparation for entering worship.

That is the primary context of purity within scripture – getting ready for a party held by God.

That is the context that fits this verse, and it fits pretty well.

It says that this purity is about paring down our identity from all the things of the world into a singular focus. Purity is about us embracing the identity God has given us as his children.

So, what about it? Are you ready to drop all those little distractions God has revealed to you? All those pretenders to the throne? You might not be able to even see all of them right now, but as you let go of the little pretenders – love of fiddling away time, love of picking on your sister – deeper and more entrenched pretenders might be revealed. A commitment to purify yourself, is not about just abstaining from sex – it’s about aligning yourself with the identity God has given you. That is our worship.



About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
This entry was posted in Church, Practices of Faith, Theology and Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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