I was one of those kids often chosen late or last for playground games. You know the drill. Two captains are agreed upon. They take turns building their team from the rest of the kids; always choosing the strongest, quickest, fastest, or best liked from the remaining pool. It’s a brutal process, but one that is also true to the ways of the world. The problem is that we often carry that process into our understanding of what it means to be “chosen” by God.
There’s a certain amount of pride in being chosen early. We celebrate and discuss the first-round draft picks of major league sports. But who even mentions those chosen in the last round? Right, no one. It’s a bit embarrassing and humiliating. Yet that last round pick is still stronger or faster than those left on the sidelines, those judged as “not good enough.”
As we read the Bible, there is a running theme of “chosen.” Jacob was chosen over Esau. The children of Israel are God’s chosen people. Certain individuals were chosen, anointed of God, for special tasks of leadership or prophetic ministry. In the New Testament, the faithful are repeatedly called the chosen or elect.
Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14, NASB95) He also referred to the elect several times in the discourse concerning the last days in Matthew 24. Paul writes to the Colossians, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NASB95) And Peter encourages, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9, NASB95)
A scrimmage begins in Christians circles whenever the topic of “the elect” is brought up. Part of this stems from our playground angst and life experiences which praises and elevates those chosen. We feel pride in our status as the “ins,” the special, the chosen of God and tend to look down on the “outs.” But that is the mentality of the playground. At issue today is not who is right in the theological war of predestination and election. But our attitude.
God doesn’t reveal our chosen and elect status to make us feel proud or “better than” but to press upon us the responsibility of being chosen. Peter put it this way, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (2 Peter 1:10–11, NASB95)
In prior verses, Peter revealed the “these things” – diligence of faith, moral excellence, increasing knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Peter concludes, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8, NASB95) Chosen but constantly growing and changing as our lives become filled with more of God and His Kingdom. Not in a religious sense, but in the real sense of being.
God calls and chooses across the whole spectrum of humanity. From poor and rich, from broken and healthy, from the strong and the weak, from all nations, tribes, tongues, and heritage. All are called. God’s invitation to receive grace is open to everyone. But as we learn in the Parable of the Sower, only some will fruitfully receive. Even if we are certain of our election, of being chosen of God, it is not, nor ever should be, something to hold with pride and arrogance.
No one is worthy of being chosen; zero, zip, nada. It is far better to remove the shackles of “the ins and outs”; of those picked first and left for last since God doesn’t choose by our standards. In fact, we don’t know what criteria He uses. Perhaps it is like the soil of the parable, a heart willing and open to accept the seed of God’s Word with faith. Being the chosen of God shouldn’t produce playground pride but a deep sense of humility and responsibility and love.