Let Love Live Week 3
1 John 2:3-14
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Reasons for Writing
I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
There is big difference between knowing what is best to do and actually doing what’s best.
I know that it is very important to remember my life partner’s birthday and adorn it with suitable gifts and time. Doing it is another thing!
I know that riding my motorbike at the correct speed limit is better for everyone, but keeping to the speed limit all the time is another thing!
And the thing is, I can trick myself into not keeping these ‘commands’.
I can do that several ways.
- I can just believe that these expectations are unreasonably difficult for me and so let myself off the hook, no matter the frosty response of my spouse or the ticket writing skills of the police officer and the resultant fine I have to pay.
- I can make excuses and try and blame the weather or the demands of work or that person who made my day difficult or anything else that might work to avoid the truth that I simply did not do what I knew was best …
- I can just ignore any attachment to having to meet these expectations altogether; believing that I am ‘on another plain’ and am ‘above all this’, and just keep doing my own thing no matter the cost to others.
These would be signs of this major problem John speaks of that lies within all of us. It is this ability to deceive ourselves.
In what way?
- To know but not do.
- To believe but not love.
- To say we have faith but not do the things of faith – namely love.
John uses a tricky word to describe this doing of what we know. He uses the word ‘command’.
My Dad spent ages fixing up a 1966 well-worn but still going little black Morris Minor for us three kids to drive the 8 miles to the bus pick up point every school morning. I sometimes drove. I was eight. Lucky it was not on the main highway out bush where we lived.
We would drive that little car hard and when we damaged it, Dad would fix it up time and time again. It was a way in which he cared for us.
One day, I was by myself coming back from the rubbish heap which was about 2 miles away from home part the way down this same railway track.
I couldn’t help it. It had just rained and the track was soft and slippery. I had to do some ‘snakey’s’. That is when you roll the car from side to side on the gravel and lay down a snake kind of zig-zag pattern on the road.
I was having the time of my life until the whole steering wheel came off in my hands! I looked up and could see that I was going straight for the scrub at some speed. I hit the rather ineffective brakes and surprise, surprise, hit the scrub and bounced in a bit and came to a halt with the front right wheel jammed over the top of a snapped off mallee log.
I knew I was in deep trouble and I felt immediately guilty and fearful.
After several attempts to get the car off the log, I had a choice to make. It is that same choice we all have to make when we sin against the Lord in some way. Cover it up or confess it and ask for forgiveness.
I bet both ways. With great fear and trembling I walked back home and told Dad. But I told him I had an ‘an accident’.
I knew I had sinned. The sin was only in part about the car. The sin was that I had thrown Dad’s care back in his face. That is what sin always is – throwing God’s care and love back in his face.
The Apostle John now speaks to this issue we all face. How do the beloved people of God deal with ever-present sin; that breaking of trust with God; that throwing God’s love back in his face?
He has said in those opening words that we are so privileged to share in the care of God.
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.”
Sounds like that on the one hand we are forgiven out of love but then we are loaded up with those commandments to keep God loving us!
Are we back to having to keep God’s law to keep earning God’s approval and blessing? Are we right back with Moses and the people of Israel receiving the Ten Commandments and pledging to keep them to keep in God’s fellowship of love.
No. This is not where John takes us.
Those ten commandments were a long range sign-post of life in the new life of the Messiah that they point to. We are in that new life.
Remember when they asked Jesus about those ten commandments? He got to the heart of them and what they mean for people in his new creation.
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
That is what John means by his word, ‘command’. Living love with God and with people.
Luther is helpful here. He says that word ‘command’ John uses does not refer to the ten commandments but to what actually happens in a person’s life in this new creation kingdom:
Where Christ dwells through faith, there he makes that person conform to him” (LW 30:240)
Jesus does the work, both ways – the loving of us and the powering of our love for others.
So, in this new community of underserved love, we seek to please our God not because of fear of breaking any of the ten commandments and incurring his condemnation, but because we know for sure we are loved by God and want to live that way. We let love live because love is where we live.
But what does John say will help us let love live like this? What will keep us on the narrow road of knowing and doing, believing and loving? What will keep us from that problem, of self-deception and lack of love it causes?
John says – ‘truth’. Faith and love come from the coin of truth, or they are the two sides of that ‘truth’ coin.
He urges his people to keep their faith centred on its source – the truth of Jesus as they have heard it from him and the other Apostles. To live this ‘Apostolic’ faith, as we say in the Apostle’s Creed.
For John, love comes from truth. Good loving comes from right believing.
So, what you believe is really important because what you believe will show and shape what you love and what you love comes directly from what you believe.
If you want to know what a person believes, then see what they love. If you want to know why a person loves a thing, then see what they believe.
For example, I believe the Turkish Delight chocolates in the box of Favourites are the very best ones. So, as soon as that box is opened I am digging in to get those Turkish delights before Leanne or the kids get them all. I believe in Turkish Delights so I love Turkish Delights!
I believe that the truth of God in his Word is what enlarges my capacity to love, so I try and immerse myself in his Word in various ways most days. I believe in the truth of the Word helps me love so I love the truth of the Word – in daily action, not just theory.
I believe it is important to back your football team when they at their best and at their worst. So I wear my West Coast Eagles beanie or jumper, even in a season like this one! (At home where no one can see!!).
So, like the lucky prize winner who gets to flip the coin at the start of the game, John is showing both sides of the coin to the respective team leaders before the toss. “This one is ‘heads: this one is ‘tails’…”.
And as he shows each side of the ‘truth’ coin with its two sides of ‘faith and love’, he also shows the opposite of what is on each side to make faith and love stand out more for us. he flips the coin … ;
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.
Why does he do this? To help love live among us! To help live what we know, do what we believe from Jesus’ truth so we live and share this magnificent gift of close fellowship with our heavenly Father, our Saviour and brother Jesus in the wisdom and power of our Advocate and wise counsellor, Holy Spirit.
Friends, Jesus is the truth; the one holding faith and love in his hands. The Jesus we hear and see and touch is the only way we stay in the faith and let love live among us. Jesus is;
2 … the atoning sacrifice for our sins,
purifies us from all sin.
When we get it very wrong; when we break fellowship because we forget, reject or make up the truth; when we head back to dark desires and loveless words, Jesus remains our advocate, atonement maker, ‘way maker’ as the song says.
As we continually trust him when he says he will forgive our many and various sins that throw God’s love and our fellowship with him out the window;
7 he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
- I don’t know what stops the light shining and forgiveness being received for you at the moment.
- I don’t know what drives you to keep a grudge rather than seek reconciliation.
- I don’t know what allows darkness to creep back into the day or this ever-present threat of death to overpower you, or what mountains of guilt weigh you down and bring you to a halt in this calling to live in this love of Jesus with all freedom and joy.
John would say that at the root is a misplaced faith; a departure from the truth of Jesus’ word. You and I are probably losing Jesus to go searching to find something or someone else we believe is better. Things other than his word of promise and truth are driving us.
This misplaced faith is the reason for the shaky walking and the darkness stalking its way back in.
For John, Getting the faith right gets the love done.
We need to get the faith right to love right.
Getting the faith clear shows that God’s love is very near.
Or as Luther puts is:
Do not declare that anyone is a Christian unless you see that his/her works declare that he/she is such a person” (LW 30:271)
I want to be a person of integrity, not hypocrisy. I suspect you might be the same. I want my outside behaviour to coming from my inside faith based not on myself, but on the truth of Jesus because his truth gives me life and hope and love beyond my capacity and all through my life’s journey and beyond.
For John and for me and you;
- Faith is no mere easy thing of intellectual agreement. It is costly love of another person.
- Love does not come from within us, it comes from the truth of the ‘atoning high sacrifice of Jesus’,
- This constant invitation from the Father to come to his banquet has been issues at huge cost to the King of kings; the shame, pain, dying by blood on the wood of the Saviour, Jesus. We are the privileged!
Stop the heavy words and the logical explaining, and pause to sing it with the heart. John does in verse 12-14:
“Children, you are forgiven.
Fathers/Mothers, you know the One who is from the very beginning.
Young people, in the upheaval of teenage years,
in Jesus you conquer the evil one trying to sidetrack you”.
“Now let’s sing it again, one more time …”
Hear the Spirit:
8 … I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Go ahead and live love as Jesus does.
Your darkness is dying and He is still shining.