“Revealed”

EPISTLE | 1 JOHN 3:1-10

1See 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. 2Beloved, 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. 3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

4Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. 10The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.

“…the world does not know us…” (v.1)

John the Pastor gives us some difficult words to understand. What does John mean, that “we are God’s children now” but “what we will be has not yet been revealed” (v.2)? What does John mean, that we are “children of God” (v.1) but “everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil” (v.8)? What does John mean, that “all who have this hope in him purify themselves” (v.3), but “those who have been born of God do not sin,” that “they cannot sin” (v.9)?

The best I can make out is this: what we do matters. Especially after the resurrection of Jesus, which adds (should add?) a whole new quality to the Christian life. John the Pastor sums up by telling his churches, “The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters” (v.10). Perhaps it would be a better summary to say, what we do not do matters.

Why do my actions and my inaction matter? Isn’t the Christian life really all about what God does anyway? So what does it matter what I do or do not do? Nothing less than the whole world is at stake. John the Pastor writes to comfort his persecuted, suffering churches, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (v.1); this is a great comfort, that our alienation or counter-cultural loneliness is not ours alone, but that it was Christ’s first. But what happens when the world does know us? What if all our capital campaigns and building projects and advertising and marketing and music and message do make sense to the world, but Jesus still remains a mystery? What happens (or doesn’t happen) then?

John the Pastor is bold enough to tell his churches that it is in that moment that we can no longer truly claim to be children of God. We enjoy the honor and privilege and responsibility of the status of “children of God” by virtue of Christ’s new life after death, which is offered to us all and which we await with joyful expectation. This has been won for us, offered to us, and sealed within us in Christ’s death and new life through the power of the Holy Spirit: so John can say, “we are God’s children now” (v.2)! But if our lives are not visibly or actively demonstrating the gift of new life, then we might as well not have it.

Lord,

I confess that I have remained still, when you led me to action;

I have remained silent, when you asked me to speak.

I have remained slow, sluggish, slothful.

Have mercy. Have patience.

But don’t stop leading;

Don’t stop speaking.

Don’t stop, or I will stay, stand still, stagnate.

Have mercy. Have patience.

And lead on, especially when my eyes are drawn to broken compasses and shifting stars;

Speak louder, especially when my ears are already full of the world’s words.

Steady me; stir me; steer me.

Have mercy. Have patience.

Amen.

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