Today’s blog offers a meditation on the daily reading of the Reformed Churches along with a headline from world news.
1 John 2:1-11
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Love and obedience are essentials for living in the light
2 1-2 I write these things to you (may I call you “my children”—for that’s how I think of you), to help you to avoid sin. But if a man should sin, remember that our advocate before the Father is Jesus Christ the righteous, the one who made personal atonement for our sins (and for those of the rest of the world as well).
3-6 It is only when we obey God’s laws that we can be quite sure that we really know him. The man who claims to know God but does not obey his laws is not only a liar but lives in self-delusion. In practice, the more a man learns to obey God’s laws the more truly and fully does he express his love for him. Obedience is the test of whether we really live “in God” or not. The life of a man who professes to be living in God must bear the stamp of Christ.
7-11 I am not really writing to tell you of any new command, brothers of mine. It is the old, original command which you had at the beginning; it is the old message which you have heard before. And yet as I give it to you again I know that it is true—in your life as it was in his. For the darkness is beginning to lift and the true light is now shining in the world. Anyone who claims to be “in the light” and hates his brother is, in fact, still in complete darkness. The man who loves his brother lives and moves in the light, and has no reason to stumble. But the man who hates his brother is shut off from the light and gropes his way in the dark without seeing where he is going. To move in the dark is to move blindfold.
Before the personal sacrifice of Christ the attachment of sinners to powers of darkness is broken and they are re-united with God. This is the meaning of Christ’s personal atonement. It provokes a transfer of affection. The author knows that this affection does not totally rule out sinful actions but he imagines that when believers transgress, Christ defends them to the Father.
Nevertheless, the author wants to insist that this “transfer of affection” only expresses a true knowledge (=intimate relationship) with God if it leads to obedience. God cannot be separated from his commandments. To share God’s life is to share his goodness, which can be briefly summed up as “agape” in Greek, which means selfless love. In the daylight of God, people can see clearly and love their brothers and sisters. Those who do not love their brothers and sisters show that they are still in the darkness. It is of course the old command to ” love your neighbour as yourself,” but it becomes new in each new life of love.
There is a profound communal experience of the love of God behind these words. The “John-community” has kept alive a particular strand of Jesus’ teaching which prioritises the disciples’ love for God and each other, as the essentials of Christian living. It’s a joyful faith which however, always keeps its feet on the ground.