Sarah, a recent graduate from the University of Oklahoma, had been teaching English for six months in a girls’ school in Bukhara, a city in central Uzbekistan. As one of the few Western teachers, she was lonely and discouraged. While she enjoyed teaching and loved her students, she felt disconnected from the community she served, like the foreigner she actually was.
After a particularly challenging day working on English sentence structure with her students, she sat at her desk to write her mom a tearful email. Fatemah, one of the girls in her class, peeked her head in the door. Sarah-Joon, may I enter? It was unusual for a student to return to class after school let out, but even more surprising was the way Fatemah said her name: Sarah-Joon.
Sarah’s heart leapt with joy. You see, in Persian culture, adding Joon (soul, spirit) to a name indicates a sense of closeness and intimacy as one dear to another’s heart. Sarah, embracing her newfound feeling of belovedness through the words of her young student, opened her arms and invited Fatemah in.
Jesus, the beloved Son of God, loves us more than we can know or imagine. In the New Testament, the word “beloved” is used exclusively for one who is dearly loved by God or by the community of faith. It’s more than mere affection. It conveys the truest sense of inclusion and belonging within the arms of God and His people.
Today as you interact with others in person, by text, on a phone call or by email, practice thinking of them as God’s beloved and seeing them through His eyes. Imagine adding the word “Joon” or “beloved” to their name, and thank God for loving them so dearly. Do the same as you catch your own reflection in a window or mirror. You are God’s beloved. You belong to Him. He sent Jesus, the Beloved, to earth out of His great love for you and the entire world (John 3:16–17).
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are….Beloved, we are God’s children now.… —1 John 3:1–2a (ESV)