Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Believing and Behaving Disciples

1 John 4:15-16

John is known as 'the apostle of love' and for good reason.  In his first epistle his concentration on the love of God is obvious if not overwhelming.  But what can be lost in this love language is his concern that believers also confess the truth about Jesus Christ. There were false teachers coming through the church who were teaching new things about Christ, which, if believed, would separate disciples from the truth and the fellowship of the body of Christ.  John desperately wanted his congregation to hold to the truth in Jesus Christ and to love as he did with a unique and unquenchable fervor.  Both are needed for our faith, but we are often tempted to take up either one and drop the other.

One common mistake in the Christian faith is to hold to the truths of Christ without their implications reaching our behavior.  We believe; we don't behave.  There are times when this is a cold faith.  What we believe is reduced to formulae, to precisely worded statements of doctrine that must be adhered to under threat of inquisition.  We come to Christ as a set of doctrines to be held to (and to hold others to) instead as coming to a Person - the Person who lived, died and rose again.  Things like 'grace' become just terms and ideas instead of lifestyles and gifts of relationship.  And as such, we lose too much.

Sometimes this is a fiery and fervent mistake.  When Christ is reduced to statements of belief it becomes easy to recognize the impostors.  It becomes easy to vet the undesirables, throw out a pastor, split a church, or leave the fold altogether.  All because we had Christ down pat and they did not agree.  Zeal without knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The other mistake may be a reaction to the first, but is just as wrong-headed.  Down this path we take a journey of deeds, intentions, and emotions.  The faith becomes a matter of what we do, how often we do it, how well-intentioned we are when we do it, and how fervently we reject the other mistake.  Who needs doctrines and creeds that do nothing but divide? Here, we do not play those power games or exclude other deed-doers over minutiae.  We want people who will live lives of love to their fellow human beings, nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

With all its good intentions this temptation leaves the front door open to any and every definition of "love" and eventually of Christ himself.  After all, we are not going to divide and conquer over those kinds of things.  In this way, though the deed is done (or at least is intended to be done), the truth of the person of Christ gets left by the roadside like the spare luggage we should not have packed in the first place.

John, however, shows us the better way.  Christians confess and love.  Disciples of Jesus Christ know and believe in the true Christ and love their brothers and sisters as Christ loved them.  The believer with the robust and meaningful faith believes and behaves.  It turns out that whoever confesses that Jesus is the Christ, came in the flesh, and died as the propitiation for our sins abides in him.  And, not surprisingly, whoever loves as he loves abides in him and he abides in them.  This is the better way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said, good and faithful servant.
Good preachin', teachin' and the love of Jesus shows in the music worship, prayers and demeanor of the entire service - whether it be a formal service, small gathering or written in blog.
Thank you all for this show of John's epistles ..