Dear Family,

EPISTLE | 1 John 2:12-17

12  I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.
13  I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
because you have conquered the evil one.
14  I write to you, 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 people,
because you are strong
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

15Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world. 17And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever.

“I write to you…”

“…little children…”

“…fathers…”

“…young people…” 

“Epistle” is just a fancy, antiquated word for “letter,” and verses 12-14 are this letter’s elaborate address. John the Pastor is writing to his family.

How profound, that John sees the power of the resurrection at work uniting all God’s people (those who do the will of God, obey the commands of God, and demonstrate the inner workings of the love of God) into a spiritual family. John sees the people of his churches in three basic spiritual categories or stages of maturity in Christ:

  • young children: those who are new to the faith, having freshly experienced the goodness of God (v.14) in the forgiveness of their sins (v.12)
  • young people: those engaged in the spiritual conflict against “the world, the flesh, and the devil” (vv.13-14) and who do so through listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit’s internal illumination of the Word of God (v.14)
  • fathers: those (I think the Greek has room for both men and women here) who have a position of spiritual authority and wisdom from their deep, personal experience of God (vv.13-14)

What I find so compelling this evening is that my own identity and activity as pastor does not permit or entitle me to think of myself as the father over a flock of spiritual children or youth. John writes humbly, acknowledging that there are people within his churches who he considers his spiritual parents, men and women who have given energy and shape to his own relationship with God. Now, in light of the powerful connection John the Apostle feels to his spiritual family, he gives them a passionate plea to persevere, and to not lose focus on the empty tomb for all the glory it gives to the world.

As a future pastor, I am free to participate in the life of the churches I serve; even more, to find close, deep friendships — even family bonds — with the people I serve. Perhaps most of all, even as a pastor, I am able (required?) to value and develop relationships with my spiritual “parents.” I have quite a few honored “parents,” and I am grateful that God has given me these influences, as well as a complex, diverse spiritual family to nurture me.

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