Tag Archives: 1 John

Having the Son of God

And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)

What does it mean to “have” the Son?

Does it mean saying particular things about Jesus? Reciting particular creeds of the Church?

Does it mean arguing about religion? Imposing religious laws on people?

Does it mean wearing certain Christian t-shirts? Wearing certain ecclesiastical robes? Having a certain hairstyle? Wearing a certain hat?

Does it mean reading special prayers? Making up special prayers? Singing special music?

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What might it mean to “have” life?

Might it mean owning up to our own faults? Admitting our own mistakes?

Might it mean praising God for the way things are? Thanking God for what is?

Might it mean receiving forgiveness? Giving forgiveness?

Might it mean serving God? Might it mean being served by God?

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

-George Herbert

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Beloved, we are God’s children now

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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 …. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
(1 John 3:1-3; 16-18)

I taught sexual misconduct prevention in the Dioceses of Chicago and Milwaukee from the beginning of the Church Insurance Company’s mandates about 20 years ago. This passage from the First Letter of John formed part of the prayer I used to open training sessions for more than a dozen years.

The first year of training was really tough and stressful — the sexual abuse of children is a subject no one wants to talk about, but clergy and vestry and lay leaders were required to attend training, and (frankly) the training was pretty awful. It was heavy on statistics and risk and insurance riders and mandated reporting and penalties. Every time I taught, the tension in the room was so palpable that I ended up with a crippling headache.

Sometime in that first year of trainings, though, I came across the new Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic order in Cambridge, MA. It was (at the time) a fresh, new rewriting of the Society’s original Rule. As I read it more deeply, I came to understand that the SSJE Rule is really an extended meditation on right relationship.

That understanding transformed the way I taught. Rather than teaching about our failures (or potential failures), my colleagues and I began to articulate a vision for what right relationship with young people and adults might look like. “If we do ministry in the light,” one priest observed, “then attempts at secrecy or abuse stand out by contrast.”

“Beloved, we are now God’s children.” As God’s children, how should we live with one another?

Aiming for right relationship doesn’t mean that we are already perfect, but it does mean that when we fail, we recommit ourselves to the high standard. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God … and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

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Gracious God, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may guard them from harm, and teach them to love whatever is just, and true, and good; following the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

False apostles and the impulse to split

The Collect for St. Matthias pulls no punches: “Grant that your church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors” (BCP 239).

The reading from the First Letter of John is equally harsh. On the subject of antichrists, John says “by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19).

These two statements about leadership in the church run counter to our American way. We generally prefer to go off and start our own churches — I remember reading once that there were 24,000 Christian denominations in America — so this judgment about “going out” hits hard.

I think there’s also a plain meaning of falsehood that gets cloaked in pious language in an attempt to justify the impulse to split. I am a salesman, and if I were to promote a competitor’s product, I would be fired for not doing my job. If an apostle — in our church, that’s a bishop — leads people out of the church he or she has sworn to guard, that bishop is false, not doing his or her job. I am not talking here primarily about teaching or correcting those in error, but about the separating of the body. You cannot both leave and stay.

John comes back to his real theme at the end of today’s passage. “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24). John is urging us to stay, to abide in the fellowship of the church.

This may be particularly hard for us as Americans. What might you need to do in order to more fully abide, to more fully stay in the church as it is, rather than as you might prefer it to be?