Reading for Monday, May 28: 1 John 3
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” John delves into the heart of this epistle with these two sentences. Literally, the first one reads: “Look at the sort of love the Father has given us!” The idea of being part of God’s family is central to Johannine theology (see John 1:12-13). John points to God’s gracious choice as grounds for the Christian’s choice of obedience over “worldly” living.
This love continues to be lavished upon us into the future: “What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” This is at least the second reference John has made to the appearance / coming of Jesus. His ethical emphasis is clear: live in light of His imminent return.
It is important to note the generalities John uses as he contrasts children of God and children of the devil. John understands as well as anyone that individuals perpetually sin, even Christians. But it appears that John is addressing some moral confusion in the early church, so he writes to give practical criteria by which the children of God and the children of the devil are to be distinguished. Perpetual, willful, blatant sin and disregard for one’s brother are at the top of the list.
At v11, John moves into some of the loftiest prose in the NT. “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another…We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers….This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Love is the evidence of new life. As the cardinal virtue, love is the hallmark of walking with Christ. So I have to ask myself: am I more loving since I became a Christian? For John, there can be only one answer to this question.
Verses 23&24 close out this wonderful chapter in grand style: “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” Belief in Christ is always the undercurrent of John’s writing (see John 20:31). And this belief leads to life, to which the Spirit testifies.