4 January 2014

1 John 3:7-10

“The one who won’t practise righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test” (The Message)


I turned to The Message again as it is, as Peterson translates, "a simple test". It is hard to put ourselves into the readers of this letter so long ago and I am led to wonder how those reading it or having it read to them reacted. I suspect that many of them may initially react somewhat angrily for, like most of us who would claim to be followers of Jesus today, they would think that they were fulfilling God's will by acknowledging him as Lord. John writes that there are divisions between the various factions in that part of the early Church. There were those who thought that sin didn't matter, because, they claimed that they were "children of God" (1 John 3:1) and as such were protected in some way, but of course being God's children meant a great deal more than just accepting that they were such and in God's image. Those who claimed to be a child of God had to have a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. To just make the claim of faith was not sufficient, to be a child of God gave a new status to the people to whom this letter was addressed. This status was not something which was theirs by right, but which came to them through the grace of God. The test of belonging came simply by demonstrating a commitment to the commandments of love set out by Jesus (1 John 3:23). Anyone who did not love, in John's words, therefore failed the test.

Where then is the relevance for us who would make that claim for ourselves in this day and age. Has the measurement of faith changed in some way, or is the test still the simple test spelled out in the words of the text? Recently I was travelling on a bus in London. The bus was crowded and I had to stand. Then a lady offered me her seat, I demurred slightly but then thanked her and took the seat being offered. The lady concerned was a Muslim in full hijab who cared enough to stand in my place - she demonstrated her concern for her neighbour in a way that no one else in that bus did. This may be a simple illustration, but how many of us even notice some of our brothers and sisters and their needs: do we go out of our way to put them and their needs before ourselves?

To Ponder

  • Who are your brothers and sisters? Now consider how much you love them.
  • To what extent do these readings from first letter of John have any application to believers today? Or have all of us who would name ourselves by the name of Christian succeeded in placing Christ at the centre of our lives?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.