Tag Archives: 1 John 2

From Spiritual Mountain Top to Relational Valley

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.
1 John 2:9 (NIV)

A topic of much conversation in our home and circles of friends of late has been that of community. It’s a topic our local gathering of Jesus’ followers has been pushing into. In short, we’re talking about how we all do life together and related to one another. It doesn’t take long for the conversation to bring out three common observations:

  • “It is messy.”
  • “It is hard.”
  • “It is complicated.”

Yes. It always has been, and it always will be living East of Eden.

Along this life journey I often encounter those who love the description of believers in the heady first days of the Jesus’ movement as described by Dr. Luke in his book The Acts of the Apostles:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

This is often held as an ideal to which all of us should strive and aspire. Striving for unity, sharing, and love in life with others is a worthy goal. I have actually had experiences that feel a lot like what Luke describes.

This idyllic experience usually happens at a camp or some kind of retreat environment. It’s that long weekend or week with other like-minded individuals in beautiful natural surroundings. I often hear it described as a “mountain-top experience.” You want to stay there. You want to bottle it up so you can can continue to consume the experience over and over and over again. When you’re at camp having a mountain-top experience you don’t want to leave and go back to “real life.” You’d love to “stay here forever.”

But, that doesn’t happen.

It didn’t happen long-term for the believers in Jerusalem, either. Jesus’ twelve disciples were scattered across the known world sharing the Message. Most of them endured violent ends. Despite the mountain-top experience of that early period of time, history tells us that the believers in Jerusalem eventually faced persecution, conflict, disagreements, strained relationships, and struggle.

Most of the books of what we call the New Testament were originally letters. The letters were by-and-large addressed to individuals or small “communities” of Jesus’ followers. What motivated the authors of the letters was typically problems that were being experienced in community. There were disagreements, relational struggles, theological controversies, moral controversies, personal controversies, persecutions, attacks from outside the community, and attacks from within the community. Leaders such as John, Peter, Paul and Timothy took up their stylus and papyrus to address these problems.

The letter of 1 John is exactly that. A philosophical movement known as gnosticism had sprung up both outside and inside the community of believers teaching things contrary to what John, the other disciples, and the leaders of the community had originally taught about Jesus and his teachings. John was writing to directly address some of these issues. Breaking down today’s chapter, I find John addressing several of them in and between the lines of almost every sentence.

What struck me this morning, however, was John’s bold claim that anyone who claimed to be in “the light” but hated someone in the community, that person was clearly not in the light, but in darkness. In other words, if you are part of Jesus, the “Light of the World” then your life will be marked by love. Jesus taught that we were to love both our friends and our enemies. John is reminding us of the utter foundation of all Jesus’ teaching. Love God. Love others. Everything else is built on these two commands. We have to get that right before anything else.

This morning I’m thinking about some of the disagreements, controversies, relational strife, strains, and struggles I know in my own life, relationships, and community. I experience the “mountain-top” for a moment or a period of time, but eventually I find myself back in the valley of relationship. Community is messy. Community is hard. Community is complicated. John’s reminder is apt.

As a follower of Jesus, I have to accept that there is no exemption from the command to love. If I’m not ceaselessly, actively working to get that right every day with every relationship, I’m not sure anything else really matters.

 

High Fidelity

Label and sleeve from one of the first mass pr...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. 1 John 2:24a (NLT)

Over the past few years Wendy and I have invested in some quality audio equipment for listening to movies, music, calls that I must analyze for work, and etc. It’s nothing over-the-top, mind you, but it’s not cheap either. It’s good quality. In retro days of turntables and Long Play (LP) vinyl records we called it “high-fidelity” which then became simply known as “hi-fi.” Fidelity comes from the latin word, fidelis which means faithfulness. High-Fidelity meant a faithful reproduction of the original music, it was “true to sound.”

With the deterioration of my hearing over the past several years, I find that having high-fidelity audio makes a difference in my everyday listening I do for work and pleasure. I thought about this as I read the second chapter of John’s letter and his encouragement to remain faithful to what we’ve been taught from the beginning.

Faithful. Fidelis. High-fidelity. A faithful reproduction of the original.

The original that John points to is Jesus and His teaching:

  • Love God with everything you’ve got
  • Love others as you love yourself
  • Forgive those who’ve wronged you
  • Bless and show love to those you can’t stand
  • Treasure people not things
  • Take loving care of societal outcasts and those less fortunate
  • Give until it hurts (then give some more)
  • Do the right thing, not the religious thing
  • Concern yourself with eternal things, not temporary things

Jesus said that the world was full of people who are always hearing, but never listening and understanding. That’s a word picture I live every day as my ears hear what people say but somewhere between the ear drum and the brain it all gets muffled, garbled and largely unintelligible. Thanks to some hi-fidelity hearing aids and audio equipment, I can usually both hear and understand.

Perhaps that’s why as Jesus followers we are called to be a faithful reproduction of the original: So a blind and deaf world might see, hear, and understand – and follow along. I’m far from perfect and after 30+ years I still have so far to go, but more than ever I want to be a high-fidelity follower of Jesus and His Message. Please God, help to increasingly make me a faithful reproduction of the original.