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. 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. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
It isn’t always easy to see the bigger picture, particularly when you find yourself out on a limb, or under attack. This is true of life, and of church life too. The writer of 1 John reveals earlier in his epistle that a drastic split has occurred in the church, and that he is one of the survivors. An influential group who claim they love God, and ‘know’ God in an exclusive way which puts themselves beyond reproach, spiritually speaking, have detached themselves. They feel no need of the rest of the believers. Does any of this sound familiar?
The writer of John’s letter is not tempted to accept this meekly, and offers a spirited rejoinder. He sets out what ‘love of God’ really means to him, using the witness of John’s gospel. Love for God entails love of our brothers and sisters in the faith. It is not merely we who love, but God loves through us. We have been granted the inestimable privilege of being called ‘children of God’. This is not a right we can hold as our own, guaranteeing purity from the world, but a promise that one day we shall know God as Christ himself knows God. Our lives and relationships are blessed by that hope.
Later on 1 John lambasts those who separate themselves off from fellow Christians as ‘antichrists’, but that’s still to come. Our little passage today reminds us that loving God and being loved by God permeates all our relationships for good. And that one day, which is not in our control, our lives will be caught up in glory.
Gracious God when we are tempted to close in on ourselves imagining that we have to harbour our blessings for better days, open us out to your love, which in its generosity can sweeten our lives and the life of the world. Amen
The Rev’d John A Young is a retired URC minister in the Synod of Scotland and a member of Giffnock URC.