The Love Challenge
John, the apostle, in his 3 letters toward the end of our New Testament speaks about love. Different than his gospel in many ways, they are letters written to individuals or to the church at large, whatever that may have looked like at that time in history. He is the apostle that lived the longest of the 12 and was the youngest of the group. He would have heard of the deaths of Peter and Paul and probably many of the others as well. He had been imprisoned and exiled. He knew the sufferings of following Jesus as persecutions were being carried out. He would have known of the arena of death as Nero and his horde watched the lions devour Christians. All these took place while he was alive. Living to around the very end of the first century, he would seen and heard so much.
Yet, with all this suffering and the beginning of the most insidious attack on the Christian faith, Gnosticism, he does not lash out or write about the horrible leaders, the persecutions, the exile on Patmos Island. He writes of the love of God. He diligently qualifies who is a follower of Jesus. In his writing, you cannot hate your brother. You cannot fake your place with God by declaring one thing and living another.
He makes it clear that you cannot be a follower of Jesus and say he did not come in the flesh. So, mental practice and philosophical gymnastics are all for the pleasure and appeasement of the human mind. They are not true believers. Jesus coming in the flesh is a big deal. It is the incarnation, the very essence and basis for salvation.
So love, loving God, is best expressed in how we care for one another. It is so easy to become jaded with the slights, the offenses, the rudeness, the attacks, the false accusations. It is easy to become cynical or to become reclusive, avoiding people and living away from everyone. Staying a loving person, without being a doormat, is a challenge that only can be met with divine help.
What work went into John’s life to bring him to this place of love. Each verse hammers us with his admonition. Fathers, young men, on and on it goes challenging us to the core. ME, I just kind of cry out for help. I know that without the help of God through his Spirit, I cannot and do not want to love sometimes. Sometimes, I recoil at the idea of loving someone or someones. And I know that it has to go beyond lip service. It is easier to preach somethings than it is to live them.
So, I know that I must continue to strive to love. When I falter or fail, I have to get up and do it again. When the slap comes on the one cheek, the flare of anger must be overcome by the command of Jesus. Not easy, but necessary. Finally, I am challenged with something that cannot be conquered, but lived and managed daily. LOVE. -P. Bill