Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.
We could argue about which Commandments are the ‘true’ ones. What it means to ‘know’ Jesus and who are the liars with no truth within them and who are the obedient, loving, perfect ones. We could use this passage to divide, to raise ourselves up and push others down, or to make ourselves feel worse and place others on pedestals.
This passage is an argument for the impossible. It argues that we can be sure of knowing Jesus if we behave exactly as he would and thus be perfectly loving as God is. On that basis, can anyone be 100% sure?
Well, just because something is impossible is no excuse not to try! In the life of Jesus, and the affirmation of the Resurrection, we are given the example that perfect love can be humanly possible. Just because humanity abundantly fails to achieve it on a regular basis is no reason for us not to strive after it, celebrate it when we experience it, and encourage it when we recognise it before us. That has no chance of happening if Christians don’t step out, seeking to walk as Jesus walked, striving to love God, each other, and ourselves.
So let us not use this passage to divide. May we support each other as we walk the Way of Jesus, know that we are all beloved within the perfect love of God, act in ways that affirm this, and be ready to encounter Christ within ourselves, each other and through Creation.
Living God, assure us of your love, lift us up within your perfection, and urge us along the better path. Brother Christ, make known your Way, guide our steps, and ignite your abiding love within us. Eternal Spirit, fill our hearts with love, inspire our minds with truths, and open us up to the opportunities that are ever before us. May we love, abundantly as God loves, as we walk the Way of Christ. Amen
The Rev’d David Coaker, minister of Grays URC and a chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly.