FIRST LETTER OF JOHN 3
For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning: that we should love each other 12 and not be like Kayin, who was from the Evil One and murdered his own brother. Why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Don’t be amazed, brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We, for our part, know that we have passed from death to life because we keep loving the brothers. The person who fails to keep on loving is still under the power of death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
16 The way that we have come to know love is through his having laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers! 17 If someone has worldly possessions and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how can the love of God dwell in him? 18 Children, let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality!
19 Here is how we will know that we are from the truth and will set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 if our hearts know something against us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts know nothing against us, we have confidence in approaching God; 22 then, whatever we ask for, we receive from him; because we are obeying his commands and doing the things that please him.
23 This is his command: that we are to trust in the person and power of his Son Yeshua the Messiah and to keep loving one another, just as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands remain united with him and he with them.
Here is how we know that he remains united with us: by the Spirit whom he gave us.
PLEASE LOOK AT MY BLOG FROM YESTERDAY ON xtremejesus.co WHICH REFLECTS ON THE MURDER OF FR. JACQUES HAMEL AND URGES TALKS WITH DAESH.
Readers of this letter will notice how the writer is always saying, “Here is how we know X”, building one brick after another into the structure of his theological house. He is a bit repetitive, emphasising always that the building blocks of faith do fit together.
Here his focus is the meaning of communal love. It is not to be taken for granted; as the example of Kayin (Cain) reveals, brotherly hatred is older than brotherly love. Hatred issues in the act of killing, because it is a hatred of other life. It seeks death. Believers on the other hand know that they have been lifted from death into life, because they love each other, fulfilling the the command that we should love our neighbour as ourselves. Continuing to love our brothers and sisters means that we dwell in life, while those who hate, dwell in death, and cause death.
This analysis is relevant to the murderers of Fr. Hamel, who dwell in death. That’s why we must try to talk to them.
God’s command of love is made real for the authors by Jesus who “lays down” his life for the benefit of others. This is the opposite of laying down someone else’s life for your own benefit, as Cain did. The authors emphasise that this sort of love is practical, requiring the sharing of one’s livelihood with someone who is in need. Those who refuse this sort of practical help are refusing God’s love, which wants to dwell in them.
If we let God dwell in us, we can say that we dwell in God, who is “truth”, a word which in Greek means un-concealment, unveiling. God’s love shown in Jesus is the unveiling of ultimate reality. We know that we dwell in that reality when we allow God to pacify our guilty consciences with the assurance of complete forgiveness, which gives us confidence, in Greek, parresia, meaning free or bold speech as between equals. In such a relationship, the authors say, we receive what we ask for. I have not arrived at that point, I must confess, because my requests to God are often knocked back. The authors’ explanation that if I want to please God I’ll always get what I ask, is not much help.
The authors sum up by quoting a version of the great commandments to love God and our neighbour, in which the person and power (literally, the name,) of Jesus Christ occupies the place of God. This is not disrespect to God, but trust in Jesus as the revelation of God’s reality. Those who trust the name of Jesus and love their brothers and sisters keep the commandments, dwell in God and God dwells in them. The name for this fundamental sharing of life is the Spirit.
Bit by bit the authors build up a picture of shared life in which the individual is no longer placed in competition for life against others and God, but where the example of God’s life laid down in Jesus for the sake of all, transfers people into a generous commonality which can also be called simply, Truth or Life. It is a theology that our fragmented, individualised, privatised lives need to know.