I had a sadly exhilarating experience with the youth group in my first church after seminary (way many years ago, now). At a youth meeting, we went across the street to the local elementary school ball diamond and played softball. Two teens were chosen as captains and began to pick teams. To my surprise, the first teen chose ME first for his team!
It was the first time I could remember I was every chosen first for any sports team. To say I was un-athletic is an understatement (And nothing has changed on that front!). The feeling of being chosen first was deeper and more powerful than the simple choosing of teams for a pickup softball game among the youth group—especially since I was an adult being chosen ahead of teenagers.
Nevertheless, something inside was glowing when I was the first chosen.
Going further back, in junior high school I met a girl named Shirley (my current wife). Shirley was alive in Christ in a way I had never experienced in any other friend. She was everybody’s friend, and a joy to be around. And to my amazement, she began to want to hang around with me. She chose me as someone worthy to date. And she said “Yes” when I asked her to marry me. I’m still amazed by that, and married way over my head!
Thirty-six years ago, twins were born to a single mom who already had four other children. She was overwhelmed and talked with her physician about what she should do. He was a friend who knew our struggle with fertility, and our openness to adoption. He connected us, and we chose to adopt Peter and Rachel, our now-adult children. There is no choosing in my life that is deeper than my choosing to marry Shirley in 1971 and to adopt Peter and Rachel in 1982—except my choosing Jesus as my Savior and Lord in 1967! I have chosen to make my family life about these three amazing people (and more recently including Peter’s wife, Mindy, and Rachel’s boyfriend, Eric). They didn’t just happen to me. I chose them.
But here’s the thing. Shirley also chose me. Peter and Rachel have chosen to love me as their father, in spite of the lack of biological relationship. And most important of all, Jesus chose me before I chose Him!
In John 15:16, Jesus says “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last…” We come to Jesus only because He first chose us.
Jesus chooses us before we choose Him.
He chooses us because He loves us deeply. He chooses us to redeem us. He chose to die for us and chooses to forgive us and grant us new life when we choose Him in response to His choosing. Shirley and I chose one another, and that’s what makes us married. Jesus and I chose one another, and that’s what makes me a redeemed one. And just as I choose to love Shirley every day and remain married to her, so I Jesus every day and remain committed to Him as my Lord.
Sometimes it can feel like our lives might be an accident or a mistake. Sometimes it can feel like God has forgotten us, or we are throwaways. But that is not true. We are chosen. Chosen by Jesus. Chosen for deeply important work—to bear fruit for His Kingdom. Chosen to make Jesus real in the world by loving service and verbal witness.
Let Jesus’ own words remind you today: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” And choose Him back by loving Him fully and serving Him faithfully every day.