6 August 2013

1 John 3:1-13

"See 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." (v. 1)


A scene comes to mind from Peter Jackson's film trilogy of Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'...As the situation starts to look increasingly dire for the allied men of the West, the elf-lord Elrond pays an unexpected visit to the war-camp. He presents Aragorn with the re-forged sword of his ancestor the king and urges him to accept his identity as the rightful heir to the throne. "Become who you were born to be," says Elrond. From that point on, there's a notable change in Aragorn's power and stature. With the sword, he knows he has to live up to that calling, leading to their ultimate victory.

In yesterday's passage, we thought about God's wonderful love (agapé) as God's defining characteristic, and considered how we should grow in reflecting God's perfect love. Today's passage gives us some clues about how that works in practice, and it's all about accepting our true identity.

God's steadfast love is not just kept for God's own self; it is given to us; lavished on us, even! So much so that we are called God's children. In fact, that is our new identity: weareGod's children. Now, it's not simply about an abstract idea of love, it's about a real relationship. Behind this bold statement is the Christian belief that, on the cross, Christ bought back humankind; he redeemed us; he purchased us from the powers of darkness, and God will now bestow on all who trust in God the new status of children of God. First we were creatures, made in God's image but struggling to live up to it; Now we're adopted into God's family, and become heirs of God's kingdom (see Romans 8:15-17).

But, "the world does not know us".

In Matthew 21:33-44, having arrived in Jerusalem in his kingly-yet-humble procession, Jesus tells a parable about the son of the landowner being abused and killed by the tenants. This became true for Jesus in the days that followed: God's perfect Son. So, today's verses tell us, if we wonder why persecution or hardship is coming upon us ("supposed to be his children!"), what do we expect when the world has never known God? Sometimes we might not feel like heirs of the kingdom, but that doesn't alter the truth that, thanks to Jesus, we are.

First of all, accept your identity. If you've accepted Christ into your life, if you've had your sins forgiven, if you've entered into this relationship, freely offered by God, then you ARE a child of God. But there's still more to come. Verses 2 and 3 are all about this growing in perfect love that we thought about yesterday. Then looking ahead to the future: "when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (v. 2). This sounds very familiar: Paul said, "When the complete comes, the partial will come to an end… for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:10, 12). This growing in the likeness and love of Christ is an important part of the Christian hope. So, John says, if you know this love, and accept this identity in faith, and have this hope, then you should want to purify yourself - in other words to live without the damaging things that drag you down and pollute your soul. In the power of God's love, 'Become who you were born to be'.

To Ponder

  • Do you consider yourself a "child of God"? What does that mean to you?
  • In what ways might you consider "purifying yourself" (v. 3) to live more like the child of God you are in Jesus? What aspects of our lives might God want to gently cleanse away?
  • Have you ever felt as if the rest of the world doesn't understand you? What frustrations are there in trying to live as a follower of Jesus in an un-Christian world?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Murphy

Andrew Murphy is married to Emily and they have two children, Phoebe (aged 4) and Benjamin (aged 18 months). Andy is the superintendent minister of the Market Harborough Circuit (a small circuit in the south of Leicestershire, and over the border into Northants). Previously, Andy’s ministry was based in Barwell in the Hinckley Circuit for eight years. And before that, he trained at the Wesley Study Centre in Durham, close to his home-town of Consett. Andy has a passion to help God’s people grow in faith, and occasionally writes hymns, sketches and songs. Spare time includes trips to play parks, watching Disney films or Postman Pat, reading Mr Men books, visiting Middle Earth, and reminiscing over the good old days of supporting Newcastle United. In the picture, Andy is the one in blue (and the snowman’s name is Olaf)!