“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God – God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When I was in college I took a course in logic. I enjoyed most of it, probably because it was an intro course and didn’t delve in too deeply to the subject. If you go much past the surface, the study of logic can quickly begin to look like something out of an advanced calculus course with Ps and Qs and Rs and a variety of other letters and strange symbols and the like. At a basic level, though, it is good to learn how to both recognize and make good arguments. At the very beginning of the class, though, one of the first things you learn are some of the basic laws of logic. These laws appear more places than you might realize, especially in math. Now, I don’t even begin to suggest I understand any of this well enough to try and tell you much about it. But I at least recognize some of them still when I see them. One of these basic laws is called the transitive property. Why am I bringing all of this up today? Because it’s what John uses in his letter here and the implications are worth some attention.
The apostle John’s first letter to his former church in Ephesus is packed with rich and deep theological truths. He gives his readers a far greater understanding of who God is and how we can be in a relationship with Him. At the bottom of his arguments is something he says in these couple of verses. What John writes here is the clearest statement of one of the most important truths we can know about God. It’s right there at the beginning of v. 16. God is love. If we really get that truth down firmly, much of the rest of a Christian worldview will fall fairly neatly into place. Now, of course, we have to understand what exactly love is in order to get it right, but while John doesn’t spell it out explicitly for us, he does make it clear. Love is an intentional decision to see someone else become more fully who God designed them to be.
Digging into that is a conversation for another time. Here is a link to the message from a few years ago where I did just that. For this morning, I just want to quickly reflect on what John writes here. John makes two primary arguments in these two verses. The first argument is that for the one who confesses Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he remains in God. The second argument is that for the one who remains in love, God remains in him and he remains in God.
Let’s break that down just a bit. Let’s call the idea of God remaining in someone and vice versa, A. We’ll call the idea of someone confessing Jesus is the Son of God B. And, we’ll label the idea of someone remaining in love C. Got it? Using our letters and restating John’s two arguments, we have A=B and A=C. Are you with me? The one in whom God remains and who remains in God both confesses Jesus is the Son of God and remains in love. I’m not introducing anything new here. I’m just taking what John said and moving it around a bit.
Well, because of the transitive property, we know that if A=B and A=C, then B=C. Should I spell it out? If the one in whom God remains and who remains in God both confesses Jesus is the Son of God and remains in love, then the one who confesses Jesus is the Son of God remains in love. In other words, if you confess Jesus is the Son of God, you will love one another. On the other hand, if you don’t love one another, then you don’t really believe Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus put that another way when talking with the disciples on the night before the crucifixion: By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. The whole thing comes down to love.
If you want to be known as a follower of Jesus; if you want your confession of Jesus to mean anything, you have to love the people around you. It doesn’t matter whether or not you like them (although it is certainly easier to love someone you like). It doesn’t matter whether they are particularly deserving of it (you certainly weren’t at one point). It doesn’t matter whether or not you are feeling it. If you are a follower of Jesus, you love them. You intentionally commit yourself to seeing them become more fully reflective of who God made them to be. Anything less than that isn’t befitting one who confesses Christ. If you follow Jesus, you love; and if you don’t love, you must not be following Jesus. There’s certainly more details that can and should be poured on that skeleton, but if we don’t have that in place there isn’t any substance to our lives as followers of Jesus. Let’s make sure we have the structure to support our confession.