Thursday, July 09, 2009

This week's lesson: I John 1:1-5

"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard," says John, "that you also may have fellowship with us" (I John 1:3, TNIV) . . .

Even if we don't always agree with each other.

In his first epistle, after all, John has a little something for everybody -- whether they like it or not.

Liberals, for instance, always love what John says about love.
  • "We should love each other," says I John 3:11.
  • "Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God," says I John 4:7.
  • "God is love," says I John 4:16 -- and for good measure adds that "perfect love drives out fear" (I John 4:18).
But before we all join hands and start singing Kumbaya, it's worth pointing out that John also loves to draw lines -- the kind of lines that make conservatives stand up and cheer.
  • "We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Those who say, 'I know him,' but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them" (I John 2:3f).
  • "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, love for the Father is not in you" (I John 2:15).
  • "Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Such a person is the antichrist -- denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also" (I John 2:22f).
So how can John be so inclusive and so narrow at the same time? Why does the same man who said "everyone who loves has been born of God" also say that "if you love the world, [then] love for the father is not in you"?

The answer lies in the last part of I John 1:3. Having said that "we proclaim to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us," John goes on to say: "And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

In short, John loves anyone who loves God -- black or white, Anglo or Hispanic, liberal or conservative. "If they're a friend of Jesus," he says in effect, "then they're a friend of mine.

But he is realist enough to note that the only thing these believers have in common is their mutual love for God . . . and if that goes, then there's nothing left.

So yes -- John is liberal in his love for God's people.

But he's conservative in his belief that it's not who we are that holds us together.

It's who we know.

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