The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – The Gospel of John 1:9-13
You’ll hear many phrases and ideas that echo John’s Gospel today, but the most noticeable resonance is in the tone. If you read too quickly you can get lost – awaking from a trance after a chapter or two without remembering what you read. Slowing down, meditating on a passage, allows John’s inspired perspective to unfold.
You can choose from a few different threads to follow in this letter. You’ll not be mistaken if you think you hear the word “love” a lot – a form of it appears four dozen times. Pay attention to where John uses it as a verb as well as a noun. When he says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” in chapter 4, how does the context fill this with meaning? When he later explains that “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar;” how does he support this?
The subject of “sin” receives a lot of attention as well. In chapter 5, John discusses sins that lead to death and sins that do not. Does the context help illuminate this? What does he mean a verse later by proclaiming: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” These are among many passages that require more than a quick, surface reading.
But while John’s prose might feel dense and elusive, he is direct in his assessment of people. He warns against imitating Cain, “who was of the evil one,” and “that every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist…” But his rebuke of false teachers and evil spirits is matched by his expression of love for his hearers, affectionately calling them “beloved” and “little children.” I encourage you to take notes not only from the words, but also of the demeanor, the combination of gentleness and boldness and mystery, that fills the pen of “The One Whom Jesus Loved.”
Our verse for this week is Luke 2:52: And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.
1 John 3 through 5. Now let’s read it!
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.