“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”(I John 3:1)
This verse makes me both happy and sad. Sad because of how some Christians are perceived, and how this might reflect on God. And happy because if someone knows God in a deep and intimate way, then Christians will be perceived in a positive way. But it works both ways, beloved reader. Who we are, and who God is – we are connected to God through our belief and God is connected to us through our actions. Woe be to us if our belief and actions do not support the image of a loving and caring God.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (Verses 2)
I asked (several times) on Easter Sunday if you had encountered the risen Lord. The hope of the writer of I John was that when God was revealed, it would be a time of renewal and change. And this will come about we will see God clearly. But the book of I John was written some time after Christ’s resurrection, so the natural question is, when are believers likely to see God more clearly than before?
The commentators I consulted reflect the idea that it will be sometime in the future – in heaven most likely. And that is probably the most interpretation for the time that these commentators were reflecting on the passage, and our current situation. But what the writer of I John have meant? That is, what future did the writer foresee for the audience this was written to?
“And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (Verses 3)
It is in heaven we will be purified further – beyond what Christ did. But the writer of I John seems to indicate the believer will be do the purifying; so still I ask, for what purpose?
What I suspect, beloved reader, is that writer of I John had in mind that Christ would return in the short term future. There is a good bit of evidence that the early church believed Christ would return in their lifetime, and this was the reason that the believers were exhorted to hold on and “build up treasures in heaven.” That is still good advice. But our task some 2000 years down the road from Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is to live Christian lives in the midst of 2015 (or whatever future year you are reading this).
If anything, our task is more difficult now than it was back when I John was being written. At the time of I John letters from the apostles were being circulated around, and dealt with issues that were foremost in the minds of that audience. Today these same letters seem to hark back to a time long before current technology and seem to speak of concepts and behaviors that are only weakly parallel to ours. This is why it is so important that people seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help in the transposition of then to now. But some things remain the same, whatever the time period.
“Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.” (Verses 4-7)
In the weeks and Sundays that follow Easter we have been (and will continue) looking and considering how to life in the light of Jesus’ life and resurrection. May these reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary encourage you to renew your faith and recommit your life to our Lord. Selah!