Be excellent to each other – 1 John 3-5 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassChapter 3More “children” stuff, but at least this time John is including himself, and saying everyone is God’s children. This I can handle, since it is consistent with the entire Bible, Old and New testaments. We don’t know what we will truly be like until we meet Jesus in heaven. Just as Jesus was revealed to be the sacrifice that saved humanity from sin and the devil.

One thing I like about John is his repeated command to be nice to one another. He equates helping one another to being righteous and proof that they understand and follow Jesus’s word. Those who turn their back on one another – or mistreat others – have proven themselves to be of the dark. At one point, John equates such behavior with murder. That’s a bit over-dramatic, but the point is taken: John believes Jesus would want the church members to be nice to each other. And from what the Gospels chronicled, he is exactly right.

Chapter 4John is trying to help his brother and sisters distinguish between a true believer and a deceiver. Unfortunately, John’s criteria is rather vague and easy to get past. “Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” “The person who knows God listens to us.” That seems like a system that is just aching for someone to game. Someone to walk into a church, say “Yeah, Jesus was the son of God! Hell yeah, I’m hearing what you are saying!” Then that person could take advantage of the kindness towards each other, get free food and board, money, seduce women, etc. Not that I’ve ever seen anything like that happen.

Well, maybe once. Or twice.

One other interesting note in this chapter: John said that the Antichrist is already in the world. I hope that Peter doesn’t get wind that John is spreading such teachings, while Peter is hard at work telling people that it isn’t the end times yet. These two are out-of-sync with each other. They need to get together over coffee at a Starbucks to get back on the same page…

Chapter 5More of the same from earlier in the letter. Those who believe in Jesus and follow the commandments are of God, of the light, and can be trusted. Anyone who says that the Christ was a spirit and not a flesh-and-blood person is either mistaken or a deceiver. God has given everyone eternal life if they believe in Christ.

One point that is mentioned a few times here that I don’t remember from the gospels at all: that the world lies under the control of the devil. Only Jesus can dispel the devil and save a person. I guess that is equivalent to saying the sin controls the world and Jesus saves people from sin. I haven’t seen this described as “the dark one” before.

[Quick note: The KJV translates this verse as ” the whole world lieth in wickedness.” This is a much less messy translation, but doesn’t match up with any of the other translations I can find. The ISV, ASV and NET all agree that the correct translation is “the evil one” and not “wickedness.”]

Conclusion:Mostly harmless. Nothing to write home about, nothing to get too annoyed over. There’s some good (being nice to one another) and some condscension (‘cuz we are all little children, apparently). Otherwise, mostly harmless.

Up next: Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky

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