Saturday 27 December 2014

Bible Book:
1 John

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (vv. 7-8)

1 John 2:3-11 Saturday 27 December 2014

Psalm: Psalm 117


Today is the feast day for John the Evangelist - the writer ofJohn's Gospel and, probably, letters of John.

This passage, on the command to love one another, picks up anumber of themes which are possibly even more familiar from John'sGospel. There, they come in Jesus' lengthy discourses and prayers,in chapters 14 to 17, which take place at his lastsupper with his disciples, after Judas has gone to commit his actof betrayal. They are part of the message that Jesus wants to passon to those who will continue his ministry. This gives them a hugesignificance within the Gospel, so it is perhaps not surprising tofind that they are themes which are important to the author of thatGospel and this epistle.

The idea that knowing Christ and obedience to his commandmentsare inextricably linked might seem to be opposed to the idea thatfaith alone is what is required. Are we not taught that faith inthe grace of God gives freedom from a religiosity which isrule-based and legalistic? But it also follows that genuine faithin that grace will prompt us to "walk just as he walked" (v. 6), orat least to long and strive to do so. This kind of obedience is nota set of rules, but a transformative process, by which we becomemore and more conformed to the image of God, until we reachperfection.

The passage is also a call to honesty; it is not just about howmuch we actually abide in Christ, but about the claims we make onthat front. If we claim to be good disciples, who have achieved ahigh standard of Christian living, then the onus is on us to provethat by the way we live! Otherwise, we risk becoming judgementalabout the shortcomings of our brothers and sisters in the faith,and causing them to stumble. If, however, we are humble enough toacknowledge our own imperfections, then we can encourage oneanother and together grow towards the light.

To Ponder

  • If you have been able to attend any Christmas worship, you willvery likely have heard another famous passage by John theEvangelist. The opening to John's Gospel (John1:1-14), with its beautiful, poetic account of the light cominginto the darkness, resonates with the promises of Isaiah (chapter9) that the people who walked in darkness would see a great light.The theme of living in the light comes in today's passage too.Hatred brings darkness, while love is in the light. How might youbring a little light into the dark places of today's world?
  • If we admit that we are not yet perfectly obedient to Christ'scommandments, does that amount to an admission of failure, or anopportunity for transformation? How might you be open to thatopportunity today?
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