It’s All About the Love: 1 John

Love. Love. Love (Except for the World). Love. Love. Love (Except for Idols).

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:12 (NIV)

The structure of the Bible has been fascinating thus far. I realize this book did not just drop from the sky (some people may actually believe that though…), and it was constructed by piecing together documents and scrolls over the course of a millennium. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised then that it comes in a very effective order. And it is not necessarily chronologic. It is much more thematic.

For instance, Jesus spent a good deal of time hitting home the basics (the times have changed, love everyone, love God), and as such, he did not spend much time on specific proclamations. The Gospels are meant to prove to us that Jesus Christ is the one to follow. Then in the Book of Acts, we got the sort of straight-to-video sequel to the Gospels… less compelling, but more of the same and a continuation of that. Then, with the Christians properly scattered about the continent, we move into the letters, which inform Christian people how they ought to behave now that they are Christian. This is where we get the vast majority of the “practices.” We were told all it took was a belief in Jesus. These letters update that slightly, saying “Well… a belief in Jesus should have all of these facets.” Like keeping your marriage bed pure and avoiding sexual immorality and behaving in church and so on. (Jesus did mention some specifics, but my impression that his brush painted far broader strokes) And now we have reached the post-Paul letters and what is on everybody’s minds here, so near the end of the Bible?

Well… the end of the world. After all, John opens one of the first sections with the salutation “Dear children, this is the last hour.” (1:18) Wowee, that is alarmist. He goes on to mention the antichrist as well as the many antichrists (?) who have descended on the scene. This is it, folks. [Insert giddy giggle for the forthcoming Book of Revelations] John is here to give us some final warnings to prepare our hearts for the Tribulation. And so what does he have to say?

“Love.” He mentions the word 46 times in a mere five chapters. Here’s a quick rundown:

Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light. (1:10)
Do not love the world or anything in the world. (1:15)
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (3:11)
Dear friends, let us love one another. (4:7)
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. (4:20)
(…and 41 more references)

After 300 odd entries, I think we all know that I enjoy reading between the lines. So let me give it a stab here…

I think they want us to love everyone. And since the end is coming swiftly, they think it is very very important that we start loving immediately.

Look at that – no nihilistic ending or downbeat conclusion. Let’s just love.

For the end is nigh.

(Okay, that is a little nihilistic)