We like to think that we are good at making choices and taking the initiative but there is a verse in John’s Gospel which I have wrestled with for some long time and I want to share the tension it provokes in me with you, the reader of this letter.
“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” (John 15:16)
In some ways it goes against the current notion that there must be choice and every person has a right to make choices: We can choose schools for our children; we can choose where we shop; once we have chosen where to shop, there are numerous brands and varieties to choose from; and so on. Of course we need to remember that there are many people in our communities who do not have these choices but it is a principal of modern day life that they are there.
In Jesus’ day disciples would attach themselves to a particular teacher or rabbi. But in the case of Jesus, the disciples did not hold the initiative. On the contrary, it was Jesus who took the initiative and chose them.
So why should I have a problem with this because surely ‘being chosen’ in any circumstance should make one feel special, purposeful and motivated. Instead I am uncomfortable with the way the passage suggests that by Jesus choosing some people in particular, others are not chosen.
Of course this question is not a new one but has been asked by many Christians (and non-Christians) throughout the ages. Indeed the passage above is not the only one which raises the question of ‘why some and not others?’ We only need to think about the way in which God chose one particular group amongst whom to reveal himself (The people of Israel) to realise that this characteristic of ‘selection’ has long seemed to be a feature of who God is.
There is not space here to provide a full answer but I would appreciate your thoughts as you read this if the question resonates with something in you. However, from my reading of the verse above I want to make two points:
First that God chooses us for a specific purpose and in the passage this purpose is clear. We are chosen to ‘go and bear fruit’ and a few verses before this passage Jesus talks about the vine and the branches, the very purpose of which is to produce fruit. Christians are chosen to be emissaries of Christ through what we say and do and are.
Secondly that God will hear us if we ask for something in Jesus name and certainly it is my belief that a prayer spoken or unspoken by anyone which is in accordance with the will of God will be answered.
Deacon Richard Beckett March 2019