I’m not lying when I say I love you. The love began in college when I would listen to your CDs for my half-hour commute. I am ready to throw down “Here You Come Again,” “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That,” or “Jolene” at a moment’s notice. And I have this on continuous repeat the week of Easter, every Easter.
So I’m saying this as a long-time dyed-in-the-wool fan (who hasn’t yet made it to Dollywood, but hopes to!): You were wrong, honey.
You recently, famously said something I’ve heard many Christian celebrities say over the years. Not just celebrities, of course, run-of-the-mill folk, too. Whole religions, in fact, are built on this sentiment. This concept that, “We’re all God’s children.”
I’m sorry, I really am, but somewhere along the way, you’ve been misled. Because the difficult truth is, that just isn’t so.
I’ve written about this before, but I’ll restate here: No one is born on this earth a child of God. We are all God’s special creation, His image-bearers (Gen 1:27), and as such, every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect (except Hitler, Kim Jong Il, Osama bin Laden…but I think you get my point).
But we are not all His children.
for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will. ~ Ephesians 1:4-5
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?' Then I will announce to them, 'I never knew you!" ~Matthew 7:21-23
But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba, Father!" ~ Galatians 4:4-6
As a large crowd was gathering, and people were flocking to Him from every town, He said in a parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Other seed fell on the rock; when it sprang up, it withered, since it lacked moisture. Other seed fell among thorns; the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. Still other seed fell on good ground; when it sprang up, it produced a crop: 100 times [what was sown]." As He said this, He called out, "Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!"
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. The seeds along the path are those who have heard. Then the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the seeds on the rock are those who, when they hear, welcome the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and depart in a time of testing. As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. But the seed in the good ground-these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit." ~ Luke 8
If we were all God’s children, there wouldn’t be four varieties of seeds. There would be no need to separate wheat from tares (Matt 13:24-30), sheep from goats (Matt 25:31-46). And yet Jesus Himself gave us these word pictures to understand where we stand in relation to God.
No one comes into this world automatically a child of God. We don’t inherit sanctification from our parents and we didn’t pre-exist as his children in another realm.
But God allowed a way for us to become His children.
“In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation - in Him when you believed -were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” ~ Ephesians 1:13
Jesus replied, "I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
"But how can anyone be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked Him. "Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?"
Jesus answered, "I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
"How can these things be?" asked Nicodemus.
"Are you a teacher of Israel and don't know these things?" Jesus replied. "I assure you: We speak what We know and We testify to what We have seen, but you do not accept Our testimony. If I have told you about things that happen on earth and you don't believe, how will you believe if I tell you about things of heaven? No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven - the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God. This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God." ~ John 3
“This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:8-13
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~ 1 John 1:9
Dolly, I love your heart and your sweet spirit. I love your big hair. I love Dixie Stampede (WAY better than Medieval Times!). I love that you remind me to be a diamond in a rhinestone world. I guess the only thing I don’t love about you is how often “Hard Candy Christmas” is on rotation every December *cringe*
And that’s why I say this: I will always love you, and you are wrong. But, the good news is, you are not hopelessly wrong. Not everyone is a child of God, but anyone who calls on His name can become a child of God. Never having met you personally, I hope that you have come to a point in your life where you confessed and called on the name of Jesus.
I know the chances of you actually reading this letter are next-to-nil, but I’ll add that I also hope that, if you do, you will tell the world that God loves them and wants them to become his children, in your unique, winsome way. Because that’s the most loving, liberating truth there is.