Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Attitudes and Actions: 1 John 2

In Summary:
John continues his letter by giving his overall purpose in writing the church. He wants them to not sin—simple enough, right? After all, who would want to continue sinning after meeting the grace of Jesus?

John’s concern, though, is that his church, his friends, will still sin. Perhaps because they are still new to the faith, new to the idea of what it is to follow Jesus. Perhaps because even those who have been in the faith for a while will still stumble and fall. There are two things, though, that John knows about his audience: they are human, which means they will fall short of perfection; they are loved by God, which means they should also have hope.

Yet there must have been those who looked at the grace of God and understood it to mean that they could do anything at all. After all, there was inexhaustible grace and they were released from the law, so all things were permissible, right?

Here is an important aside: John’s readers do not have the rest of the New Testament at this point. They have the Old Testament and the oral teachings of the Apostles, with perhaps some of the earlier writings of the Church. (Everything we deal with in dating the New Testament writings is an estimate, based on our understanding of when various events happened and how they are reflected in the writings.)

So the church John writes to is not in possession of Galatians or Ephesians as reminders of grace. They do not have Romans as an instruction on the importance and use of the Law in the church. They just have what they’ve been told—and now John is trying to help round out the ideas they have heard. He writes to the church about the importance of obeying God.

In Focus:
His focus is on the church members showing love for one another as evidence that the light is shining and the darkness is fading away. One cannot hate his brother and claim to be filled with the love of God, and John’s continued expression of how love looks through the behaviors of the church. The world, he says in 2:17, is passing away. So loving the things of the world is a pointless exercise.

Instead, the love of the church should be spent on those within the family of faith. Now, it is important to get this right about that idea: John’s instruction is not to neglect the community around the body of Christ, but rather an emphasis point. As Jesus Himself said, the church would be known by the world because of its love for one another (John 13:35). The love within the community should have been visible to the wider world, and been something that the world around the church wanted to encounter. Further, it was a genuine love, and those who show love for some will naturally overflow that onto others.

And finally, the church recognized that all people were made in the image of God. Once they accepted that as the reality of the world around them, then it was natural to show love to those they encounter.

Now, what is this love? It is to work to bring others to follow Jesus, in line with His commandments and His ways. Love is to treat others as Jesus would treat them: with grace, mercy, and righteousness.

In Practice:
What do we do about this?

First, we need to look at our own lives: do we love one another? Our actions within churches suggest that we do not. If we are being self-serving or demanding, then we are not showing love. If we are using the church for our own purposes and not surrendering to God to be used for His purpose, we are not showing love to one another. There are too many examples of abuse and wrongdoing in the church to count these days—and those are just the big moments!

How do you approach your relationship with your local church family? Do you look forward to being with and supporting one another? Or are you there because you have to be, and those folks better stay out of your way on a bad day? Or, do you not even have a local church family? You need one. None of them are perfect, but you need one anyway.

Second, we need to look at how we live out our faith in the world around us: does the love we live for the people within the body spill out into the streets around our churches?

Is it possible that our actions reflect an attitude that puts us in the position of anti-Christ in the life of others? Keep in mind that the actual term here means “before Christ” or, perhaps, “in the way of reaching Christ.”

Could that be where we sit with our own demands and methods?

In Nerdiness: 

“Paraclete” is the term translated as “Advocate” in 1 John 2:1. Origen (3rd Century) connects this title to both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, highlighting both intercessor and comforter. It’s a term that is used of the Holy Spirit in John 14:26 (and the verses following in 15 and 16 that refer to the Spirit) and not many other places in Scripture. This is a place where you do get toward the idea by breaking down the parts of the compound word: “Called with” is good, “called alongside” is perhaps better here, and so we get the “one who is called alongside” as the idea. Some suggest a legal concept, thus tying into “Advocate” like an attorney is an advocate, but it may be simpler than that and be anyone who does not have to be involved in someone’s difficulties but joins in to help because he can. (some info from BDAG, some from ACCS)

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