29 December 2011

1 John 2:3-11

"Whoever says, 'I have come to know him', but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but however obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him." (vv. 4-5)


St Jerome, living three hundred years after the death of John (the author traditionally associated with this letter) relates a story of John in his old age. Too old and feeble to preach he would have himself carried down to the assembled people and say, "Love one another. That is the Lord's command: and if you keep it, that itself is enough."

It is the simplest and yet most difficult of messages. What does it mean to love one another and how do we find the resources to do it? In today's passage John offers some guidance. There must be a consistency between word and deed. If we say we have come to know God then this must be supported by our actions; we must be seen to be living in accordance with God's word and following in the footsteps of Jesus.

If we say we are "in the light" whilst still "hating" or failing to love our brothers and sisters then actually we are still in the darkness (verse 9) - and often, too, we are blinded to our hypocrisy. The person who loves their brothers and sisters is the person who is living in the light.

So, although we enter the light by confessing our sins and accepting the gracious gift of God's forgiveness, evidence of our living in the light is to be found in the degree to which we are seen to be walking as Jesus walked. It is to be found in the ways in which we allow the love of God to shape and influence our behaviour towards others.

To Ponder

'Love God and do as you please' and 'Do the most loving thing' have been two soundbites attempting to sum up Christian living. What is helpful about these soundbites and what are their limitations? How would you sum it up?

In what ways do we sometimes try to justify treating others with a lack of love?

Is there someone you find difficult to love or forgive? Might you bring that person to God in prayer?

Bible notes author

The Revd Graham Jones

Graham Jones is a Methodist presbyter serving as a member of the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network in the Yorkshire Plus region of the Methodist Church, with particular responsibility for ministry development. Graham is committed to developing ministry in its broadest sense, enabling both lay and ordained to live out their vocations, and to share in God's mission in the most fulfilling and effective ways.