1 John 2:1-6
What would your last piece of advice be? If you had a chance near the end of your life to write a letter to your loved ones, how would you encapsulate the lessons of your life? John had a chance to do that very thing in this letter, and his advice is a little surprising. We might think of “love God,” or “be thankful and kind.” There is nothing wrong with either of these pieces of advice, but they are not what John picks.
John has, almost literally, seen everything. He was there at the cross, the empty tomb, and the ascension. And don’t forget, this is John the Revelator who watched as Christ’s kingdom came to fruition. So what might this wise man say? “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” (vs. 1) So this apostle, whom God has given the opportunity to watch the universe be torn apart as a result of sin and rebellion, turns to his beloved readers and pleads with them not to sin. In a world in which we take sin lightly, in a world in which we think we may find joy and fulfillment in redefining our brokenness and indulging our shortcomings, John asks believers to take sin seriously. Take it from an old man who has actually watched it happen-sin will tear us all apart.
But John is a realist, and this brings us to the good news.
John pleads with me to avoid sin, but he also knows I will fail. He immediately adds, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ…” (vs. 1). The error the false teachers were making (dealt with in chapter 1) was that they did not believe in sin. The error the sinner makes is not turning to a God who is “faithful and just to forgive us of our sins.” And this is a God who not only wants our repentance, but who has provided everything necessary for our forgiveness. We need not do anything but turn to Him.
Many believe that we should soften the blow of Christian teaching by downplaying the topic of sin. The idea is that it is easier to make people happy and fulfilled if they are not aware of their sinfulness. But John sees things differently. After describing the boundless forgiveness provided for by God Himself, John has this to say in verse 5, “but whoever keeps his word, in him, truly the love of God is perfected.”
The phrase, “love of God” is interesting here. It could mean several things, but most scholars agree that it is intended to convey the concept of “my love for God.” Secondly, the word “perfected” adds a great deal of meaning. This word is translated in a few ways in the NT including “finished” and “fulfilled.” It contains the Greek prefix telos, which means, “purpose,” “end,” or “design.” Now, having a feel for John’s language, reread that first phrase of verse 5. I am able to perfect/fulfill/find purpose for my love for God if I keep His word-if I come to Him finding forgiveness and His amazing grace. But that requires that I take a humbling, but crucial step toward him.
So many of us are searching for meaning and fulfillment in life, and John has given us insight into how to realize these desires. Let us strive to take the advice from this old and wise man-find yourself in the ocean of God’s forgiveness and love.