Tuesday

21 January 2020

1 John 3:7-24

The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters. (v. 10)

Psalm: Psalm 119:113-128

Background

It’s never for us to say who belongs to God and especially who doesn’t. That is God’s business and our lives are simply lived in response to God’s grace and love. But verse 10 does give us a standard by which to recognise who appears to be a follower of God and who appears not, recognising the sheep and goats of Matthew 25.

The standard? Doing what is right. It’s a fairly straightforward test but one that has always been problematic as we struggle with knowing what is right in any particular situation. The struggle of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know what was right in the face of Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s eventually led him to be a participant in a plot to murder Hitler, and to cost him his life. Many of us would struggle to see murder as ever the right action. It’s hard at that level to know what is right, and it’s hard at much more mundane levels.

Because it’s hard, the passage goes on to example what is meant. We are pointed to Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, as actions in opposition to God (v. 12-15). Where we show hatred we are on the side of Cain. The outward action is internalised into our thoughts and desires. This is very challenging, but being a follower of Jesus was never portrayed as an easy way, just the best way. Our faith is demonstrated in our actions.

 

To Ponder:

  • In an age of fake news and some quite extreme political leaders, can we ever know what is right? Is there an objective standard we can look to?
  • The devil gets several mentions in this passage. How do we understand the role or person of the devil?
  • As a society, and perhaps even as individuals, are we guilty of seeing others in need but having no pity (v. 17)?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Skuce

Stephen Skuce is currently Director of Global Relationships for the Methodist Church. An Irish Methodist presbyter and former mission partner in Sri Lanka, he has served with British Methodism for the last 14 years in roles at Cliff College and as Methodism’s Director of Research.

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