Throughout Lent, Wesley campus ministry leaders will provide devotions based on the Gospel lectionary scriptures. Audra Hudson Stone from CMU looks to Jesus’ temptation as an example of how we can accept our identity as God’s beloved and reject all that challenges it.
AUDRA HUDSON STONE
Pastor and Director, Wesley Foundation at Central Michigan University
“Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him” (Matthew 4:1, CEB).
A few weeks ago, our community at the Central Michigan Wesley Foundation launched its worship focus for the spring semester: “Never Too Much. Always Enough.”—a celebration of our identity as God’s beloved.
As we worshiped, we named God’s love for us as radically accepting and unchanging. We sang about the ways God creates us uniquely and purposefully. And we engaged in spiritual practices meant to connect us to these truths.
We proclaimed that God calls us beloved and enough, exactly as we are.
Yet, as we acknowledged along the way, claiming this beloved identity takes time and effort. It requires intentionally resisting the narratives that tell us otherwise.
It involves saying no to the temptation to identify ourselves against the opinions of others, the things we have, and the merits we achieve. For young people, it entails challenging the ever-present pressures of social media, marketing schemes, and standards of perfection that tell us we must either contract or expand ourselves to have value and purpose.
Accepting our identities as God’s beloved, we named, requires rejecting all that challenges it.
Jesus, in his wilderness temptation, experienced this tension of acceptance and rejection too. As he prepared for his work of sharing the good news of God’s love, he wrestled with his identity and purpose. The lures of false power and control vied for Jesus’ attention in the wilderness, tempting him into thinking that he could not do ministry without them.
But Jesus recognized his own sufficiency as God’s beloved, affirmed by the Spirit just verses before in his baptism. He knew that God’s love called him enough and would empower and accompany him in his ministry. No extra power or control was required.
So, Jesus rejected the temptations offered to him in the wilderness. And he did so knowing that to fully accept this name “Beloved” and its calling to “Be Love” in the world, all narratives challenging his belovedness had to be confronted and dismissed. Rejection of what he was not was an essential part of the journey.
This Lenten season, as we prepare for the ultimate sign of God’s love in resurrection, may we pay attention to what casts doubt on our belovedness. May we identify how the narratives that tell us we are “too much” or “never enough” manifest in our lives and communities. May we wrestle with them, confront them, and, ultimately, challenge them with the truth that God calls us loved, just as we are.
This Lent, may we understand our belovedness as a part of our creation—a quality that is essential to our being. And may we know that this belovedness also carries responsibility. May we be like Jesus, who took this charge to love to the powerful, to the margins, and to the ends of human death-dealing. May we be God’s radically merciful, just, and accepting love in the world, loving others as God loves us. This is our prayer. May it be so.
Last Updated on February 22, 2023