John now transfers that we don’t only love God but love the children of God by loving God and obeying His commandments. So we love God and love people in the same way, by obeying God. And his commandments are not burdensome (maybe we’re doing it wrong? Yes. We’re doing it wrong if it’s burdensome.) Generally, I think it’s burdensome when we don’t keep the perspective in place (it might take effort to escape from someone who has kidnapped you but I can’t imagine someone would describe that as burdensome). And John reminds us of that perspective, that we are overcoming the world by faith. But again, you gotta believe in Jesus, that’s how it’s done.
John then switches to describing what testimony exists to confirm that Jesus is able to bear the weight of this belief. Kind of answering the question, “How can we trust Jesus as the linchpin in this thing?” Well, the work of the Spirit, the validation of Jesus’ identity through baptism (“this is my son…”), and His death. God Himself validates who Jesus is, which is stronger than the testimony of the world. And because we get the Spirit, we have internally the testimony of Jesus’ ability to deliver on the Biblical promises when we have faith. You want to live, you need Jesus. (And, you know, it’s best not to call God a liar.)
We are told that he writes all this that we may be assured of our eternal life. We believe Jesus is who He says he is and keeps his promises. And because our eternity depends on Jesus, not us, we can have assurance. No reason to doubt here. The John says scary things like, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us and…we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” Well dang, that seems rough. We know he doesn’t give us everything we ask for, even if we think it’s good. Question is, what is in his will? Maybe John’s next section helps with that.
“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life.” Hmm, that kind of helps. But I have a lot more questions. Does this mean I can ask forgiveness on another’s behalf? (cough, cough, Catholic last rites, cough, cough.) What sins lead to death, don’t all sins lead to death (Paul? Like, Paul from Romans? Help?) And is this really the only thing that John was getting at when he said that if we ask anything He will hear us? This section needs more study. Whoa! Wait, John says there is sin that leads to death and we shouldn’t bother praying for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that doesn’t lead to death. Hmm, all sins are not equal. John does not care to elaborate. Helpful.
If you’re born of God, you don’t keep sinning (again, I think this is habitual sin. Not that that’s any better, really.) God protects us and the evil one does not touch him. (Difficult. Very difficult. We’ve seen many a good person tempted into their own destruction.) Even so, John reminds us that the world lies in the power of evil, even though we are from God. It’s always going to be a fight. We’re in enemy territory. That’s why we’re tempted. That’s why it’s persistent. That’s why we must resist.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” It’s like John got tired with his elaboration in earlier letters and just kind of dropped an idol-bomb and left the conversation.
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