Today’s title is straight out of the lectionary. 1 John 5:9-13 is the Epistle reading for Sunday and verse 12 makes this definitive statement.
John is not beating around the bush here. He is telling it like it is.
Truth and lies are important themes that run throughout the letter and we see it in this reading. It seems rather bold to say that if you don’t believe in Jesus, you are calling God a liar but that is what John says in verse 10.
If you combine that with the title, it seems to draw a line in the sand between believers and non-believers.
This is written to the faithful for assurance in their faith as verse 13 attests. But the faithful know the whole story – or at least we should.
In our soundbite culture of 140 characters or less, it becomes too easy to pick out verses like these in order to browbeat someone who doesn’t believe the way we do.
Yet, John’s letter is richer than merely today’s reading and as the faithful, we should take these verses in context with the entire work.
In the second chapter, verse six states that those who claim to abide in Christ “ought to walk just as he walked.” Of course, Jesus walked in humility and pulled the outside in and sometimes pushed the inside out. He turned the world upside down and he was willing to die to do so. If we are dividing the lines so easily between believer and non-believer in order to hold the latter in disdain, the irony is that we are no longer walking as Jesus walked.
John’s letter also identifies God as love in the fourth chapter. As we understand spirituality in broader terms than today’s verses indicate, John states clearly in verse 16, “those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” Even atheists have loving relationships. Does this mean they approach God as they exemplify love even though they would not name it as such?
If we understand spirituality in this larger sense, we could say that God is most clearly seen when love is on display. So in this sense, if the Son of God is also understood by love as we see his love for us, then when we do not love, we do not have life as today’s verse states.
Loving seems to make up life as this epistle defines it. Those who are not loving are not in Christ. This seems to be the true meaning of today’s reading whether someone professes faith in Jesus or not. As those who look through the lens of Christ, we are free to define the world as we see it.
The faithful abide in God and so we start all conversations concerning truth with love. This is not a sappy, undefined love but one that is sacrificial and challenging. It is difficult but when it is realized, we see that eternity has already begun.
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