Sunday, April 29, 2012

Scripture Sunday: 1st John

The book of 1st John is one of my favorites in the New Testament because it's so immensely quotable and full of discussions that almost seem like poetry. John is writing to bring joy and assurance to his audience: "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1:4-5)

I like that idea of God as light. In most fictional stories, there's a natural association between dark and badness and light and goodness. Elsewhere in the Bible, it says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, but he isn't--he's pure darkness, trying to deceive people with the appearance of goodness.

Later verses in chapter one address the problem of sinning as a Christian. Essentially, if you walk in a lifestyle of sin without being bothered by it, you don't belong to the Lord, but if you say you're perfect and without sin, you're only deceiving yourself. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1:7-8) The point is to make a daily habit of walking in the light and staying close to the Lord.

Chapter 2 makes an important distinction about hatred. As a Christian, can you hate another person? No, not if you want to be right in God's eyes: "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him." (2:9-10) And of course by "brother" it doesn't mean biological sibling, but "fellow human being" or perhaps "fellow Christian" depending on how you interpret it. You must love your brothers; hating them cuts you off from proper close fellowship with God.

John also addresses the problems of the world, with "the world" meaning not the planet itself but the sinful physical reality we live in: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." All the tempting stuff the world has to offer is temporary and passes away, but God's love and justice are eternal.