19 August 2013

1 John 2:12-14

“I write to you, young people, because you are strong” (v. 14)


What a change from yesterday's passage! We no longer have the warning that Christian commitment may stretch family relationships to breaking point. Instead, we have an encouraging word about the security of being part of God's family and about the potential of the gospel (good news about Jesus) to bring healing to disrupted families. There need not be a contradiction between Jesus' words of crisis and division and these words of healing and encouragement. The first Letter of John is very focussed on the quality of life in the early Christian communities. We might even see it as a sermon on the theme, 'Live out the life of Jesus in your relationships and community life'. John does have some hard things to say, but, like a good teacher, he starts with the positives before offering criticism and demands.

No one knows the exact relationship between the letters of John and John's Gospel, though many believe that the letters come after the Gospel and that they assume their readers are familiar with the Gospel's words. Whatever the relationship, we undoubtedly meet common themes and a similar picture of how God's love reaches us in Jesus Christ. Think of passages like "If you know me, you will know my Father also" (John 14:7) "'Abide in me as I abide in you" (John 15:4).

In this brief passage, the author develops his theme with a repetitive structure; verse 14 repeats and intensifies the sentiments of verses 12-13. The picture is of an intergenerational church with children, young people and an older generation. Within this family - a much broader concept than a handful of blood relations living together - all have a common birth right and all have a common value. What holds them together is their common experience of forgiveness (the author clearly does not subscribe to the view that children are necessarily innocent!), their relationship to God as the father of all and their resistance to evil.

To Ponder

  • What words of encouragement could you give that would support and strengthen people in their faith journey?
  • What is the state of relationships between generations in your community and/or church? What might be done to bring them together if they are in any way estranged?
  • This passage suggests that children's spiritual insights and commitments need to be taken seriously. How might we learn from the children among us?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain but since 2004 has served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. His ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.