A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Wednesday July 8, 2020
2 John 4-6
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
Do you get increasingly frustrated when other people don’t listen when you tell them everything they need to do to succeed? Have you ever caught yourself feeling happy and/or vindicated when they then suffer after failing to adhere to your wise instruction? If you are anything like me it is so easy to forget that nobody is perfect, you aren’t as omniscient as you think you are, and the world doesn’t revolve around you. Although I could quickly provide you dozens of personal examples that would be less than flattering and perfectly illustrate my point—cut to Meagan nodding a little too eagerly—a quick glance around at the social media and cultural landscape tells me that pretty much everyone can relate. We, as a human race, love to make ourselves feel better by looking down on others. Over and over we are quick to judge others based on our worst assumptions about their actions and while giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt based on our best intentions and motives, regardless of the actual outcome. For example, when my dog uses someone else’s yard as a toilet and I forget to clean it up, it’s an honest mistake, but when the neighbor does the same in my yard, it is a personal offense and an act of war. You may have noticed that this line of negative thinking not only leads to frequent misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict, but it rarely, if ever, results in lasting behavioral change.
As John considers the church he is addressing, he does not do so with a critical spirit or condescending tone. While I might be tempted to single out those who are floundering in their sin, John instead rejoices and commends the believers that he knows are flourishing in their faith, “some of your children walking in the truth.” Even his command to “love one another” comes in the form of a warm encouragement as opposed to a harsh edict. John doesn’t just command love, but he demonstrates it through his gentle yet firm exhortation. Now, if it seems like John is repeating himself here, it is probably because he is; the command “to love one another as I have loved you,” was truly not a new one. Instituted by Jesus with His disciples at the Last Supper, John initially recorded these words in his gospel, repeated them in his first epistle, and recalls them again here, emphasizing their importance through repetition. Followers of Jesus were to understand that the distinguishing mark of the church in the world would be the way that they loved and cared for one another. Love wasn’t just a helpful suggestion, but an expressly given command, a prescription for how to live out our faith and most effectively share the gospel of Jesus.
Love is not just something that we feel or something that we say, it is something that we do, a choice that we make. Jesus declared His love for for all the world to see not just through His words, but through the action of laying down His life on the cross. At the cross, Jesus showed His love for the world and also for His Father. Jesus did not desire the cross for Himself; He knew how much it would hurt, He understood what it would demand of Him physically, emotionally, and spiritually in a way that we could never fully comprehend. The thought of the agony of the cross troubled Jesus so deeply that He repeatedly asked His Father for another way to accomplish its purpose. But because God is a God of perfect love and perfect justice, the penalty of sin had to be paid. As Hebrews tells us, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Jesus perfectly obeyed the perfect plan of the perfect Father.
There is an old adage that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. In other words, it’s not about what you say, but what you do. If God really sent His Son to die on our behalf, then His love for us could never be in doubt. And just as Jesus obeyed the will of the Father, we must obey as well. Our love for Jesus is revealed not just through our words of confession, the verbal affirmation of His nature and deity, but through our acts of obedience. To love is to “walk according to his commandments.” We might instinctively balk at this and say, “obviously there is more to being a Christian than obeying a set of rules,” and we would be absolutely correct. The Christian life is about so much more than obedience to His commandments, but as Jesus tells us, it can never be less than that. Our love for Jesus is shown through our obedience to Him and His commandments. Because God knows all things perfectly and He is perfectly good, His commands are given to us so that we would flourish in life and in faith. In joyful obedience, may our attitudes and actions reflect the undeserved mercy and love that we have so freely been given, that the world may see Jesus in us.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, our Hearts are laid bare before You. You not only see our actions and hear our words, but You know our plans and our thoughts. We are so grateful that You are not like us, quick to judge and condemn others for even the most minor infractions. Forgive us our sins of arrogance and apathy, for criticizing instead of loving the people You have created in Your own image. Thank you for your patience and kindness with us, that while we were still sinners You died so that we might live. Empower us to put our our money where our mouth is, to love You with all our our hearts, our minds, our strength, and our souls. May the world see Your love through us today. Amen.