Wednesday is a big gulp of two chapters, but the content is addressing the admissions about sin. Within each of us, and among all our communities, we have choices to make, to inform and express, to reveal and perceive, what is part of this new commandment and community.
This is a lot of ‘us and them’ talk. We cringe in our universal human rights framework, threatened by the potential of such talk for demonizing the ‘other’.
“God is love”. We love that slogan. We repeat it endlessly in liberal churches, but we don’t put much rubber to the road in walking the walk beyond our own household and kinship networks. The sectarians whom we deride do better.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” We idolize the romantic experience of a couple at a wedding, and confuse this affirmation with an idolatry of their peak emotional experience. We don’t even get to the next admission, ‘in this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us’.
The standard of measurement is repeated: how we treat a sister or brother in the community is a standard, not how we love our newlywed bride or groom. There are a few hundred million of our co-religionists around the globe who might challenge how much we love them in action – let alone their neighbours!
1 John 3
1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
2Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
5You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
6No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.
7Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
8Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
9Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God.
10The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.
11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
12We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
13Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters that the world hates you.
14We know t hat we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death.
15All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.
16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us— and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him
20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God;
22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
1 John 4
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.
4Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
5They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them.
6We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world.
15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.
16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world.
18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
19We love because he first loved us.
20Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.
21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.