1 John 1-3

Good morning! I think of 1 John as famous for its commands to show Christ-like love in tangible ways. While that does feature as an overall theme, when we read chapters 1-3 today we’ll see that other subjects come up prominently as well. 1 John shares significant imagery and themes with the gospel of John, which is why some presume that disciples of that John are the ones who wrote the letters of John. In addition to discussion about the Christian vocation to “abide in Christ”, and the Christian identity as “children of God”, 1 John 1-3 similarly uses a light/dark dichotomy to emphasize sinfulness and righteousness. Christ rescues from darkness, and love is the way to demonstrate one’s allegiance to “the light”.

As we read “deeper” into these Christian letters, we encounter growing signs of disagreement within the Christian community. In 1 John 2, it takes the form of denunciations against some who defected from this community (and therefore from Christ, according to the author). Such former members are here called “antichrists”, and their departure from the Christian fold is hailed as a sure sign that the end is very near. The arguments over Christ, Spirit and Father that the writer evokes are just the sort of fights that will lead to church convocations, orthodoxy creeds and heresy trials down the road. This is another way the black and white world of John’s gospel plays out here, but the presence of Jesus is a way to cross over from sin to salvation.

The overall message for the Johannine community, though, is to demonstrate love in Christ-like action. Loving other faithful people is living “in the light”, but “whoever hates another believer is in the darkness”. (We don’t hear if it’s okay to hate non-believers, though the rhetoric against “antichrists” is quite strong.) Love calls for radical sacrifice and self-giving after the form of Christ. I love the beautiful and simple language here of what love looks like in action, especially the unmistakable call to care for those who are in need, if one has the means. A believer shows love by following Jesus’ commandments, and following the commands means loving just as Jesus did. Happy reading!

Read 1 John 1-3. (Note that the link here is only to 1 John 1-2. For copyright reasons, you will need to click the button at the bottom of the linked page to read chapter 3.)

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 1 John 4-5. Thanks for reading!

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