July 16, 2019
I would like to meet the Gospel writer John. I imagine him and wonder if he measures up to my mental picture. Or, conversely, does the picture in my head come even close to the real John? A surface scan of his writing reveals that it is all about love; and, all of a sudden, a Beatles song starts to play in my head. “All you need is love… (wah-waaah-wah-wah-wah).” If only it was all that lyrical. It is John who strikingly records Jesus’ last words. Jesus was so intent on imparting one message that he repeated himself. Three times (that mysteriously holy number) Jesus said, according to John in his Gospel, “Love one another.” Then John picks up the refrain again in today’s reading, “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”
1 John 3:11-17
by Patty Muse
Associate Clergy of Munsey Memorial UMC (Johnson City, TN)
Three Rivers District
John seems so grandfatherly in my mental picture. He even addresses those to whom he writes as “dear children.” I almost expect him to offer a bowl of ice cream now and sing another refrain about what it means to love another. “Say nice things. Be kind. Don’t talk behind peoples’ backs.” Instead, it is as though John hits a minor chord. “Don’t be like Cain, who was a murderer. Expect the world to hate you.” What? Where’s the catchy chorus? Then he begins the next verse. If you see someone in need and only wish her a nice day, ignoring her obvious need, you aren’t loving like God. Our love is demonstrated, says John, not so much in the words of a love song but “with actions and in truth.”
The words we say – or sing – have to match what we do, like Jesus. John says, “We know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Jesus came that we may have life. God became incarnate in Jesus because of God’s love. At the end of this chapter, John explains that Jesus commands that we love, and those who obey the command live. There is the musical climax. We cannot have life without loving. We cannot have life without laying down life.
I want to meet John and Jesus and have them explain this. And maybe John and Paul. Really? “All we need is love”? It sounds so simple.