John was the youngest of Jesus’ disciples and the last of all to die. He began in the company of Jesus as “young John” but lived long enough to be called “John the elder”, or as we would say, “old John”. After years of faithful teaching, he left us a gospel and three letters in his name, as well as the Revelation. Perhaps it was the gift of time that allowed John to see as clearly as anyone what the essence of this life in Christ is all about. Perhaps that is one of the benefits of living longer, but only if one is drawn into the beauty and wonder of faith and doesn’t get old and bitter. John was anything but old and bitter. His writings suggest that he was full of wonder in the vision of Christ.
John’s writings were remarkably clear and focused. In fact, some scholars see John growing simpler as he grew older. If you take time to read his first letter, what has come to be called “First John”, you will read some of the most direct teaching on what lies at the heart of the Christian life, a kind of three-fold strand of basic Christian living.
The three vitals evidences of true Christian life are inter-related, says John: the life of truth, the life of obedience, and the life of love. In other words, there is a truth in Jesus to be embraced (he is the divine Christ), a way in Jesus to live (in obedience to God’s commands), and a heart that animates it all -- the love of God which is most perfectly displayed in Jesus. Some have called these three strands “the tests of life”.
But it was the message of love that was most characteristic of John’s teaching. A very old tradition tells us that one of John’s students once complained, “why don’t you talk about anything else? “Because there isn’t anything else”, John answered.
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.
My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! (1 John 4:7-12, The Message Bible)
Here is a message that must be constantly revisited. As we pursue truth and goodness, let us also live out the love of God. If old John was speaking at Westside King’s Church this Sunday he would say it one more time: “love one another”.
See you this Sunday at 9:29 or 11:11.
Some questions for further reflection: 1. What is the most challenging thing about love? 2. How do you think we are most confused about love in our culture? What one word would you use to describe what most people understand love to be? 3. What metaphor, image, or story best describes love to you? (see if you can do this without reference to Jesus) Is there any picture of love that moves you? 4. When, where, how have you been the recipient of a love that has transformed you?