Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our reading from 1 John 5:1-8 points us to the attitude of the Christian. Those who love God will love others who are born of God. This is a sign of the keeping of God’s Law, which may be summed up by calling us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we love God, we will adopt his priorities, including love for our neighbor.
In verse 4 we read that this kind of faith overcomes the world. It is a conquering sort of faith, a conquering sort of love. The love of God confronts sin and death. It confronts everything that would bring harm. It tells the truth. And it seeks to draw others into that truth.
Sometimes Christians are criticized for telling others what to do, making demands on them, and all sorts of other things which could be construed as a desire to dominate or even oppress. This has been on my radar screen lately, as I have more often been ready to criticize certain political and social groups for making what I consider to be unreasonable demands or expectations on others. What’s the difference?
I’m still working on this, and I hope maybe for some dialog about it, but I think a key distinction is the enduring or temporary nature of moral claims or requests for life change. The actual demands of God for life change as described in the Bible strike me as being those with very long-term effects. For instance, ideas of marital faithfulness, prohibition of theft, murder, or taking others’ things by deception, the requirement of honoring and thus learning from authorities, all this leads to a society which will, in the long-term, have greater health and has been shown to have greater happiness. On the other hand, many demands for life change are for fleeting, temporary things. When we talk about certain types of policies, within Christianity and outside of it, such as diet, exercise, financial arrangements, or even many environmental regulatory issues, these are matters which might not have such an enduring influence on society. They are relevant insofar as they exemplify loving and serving our neighbors.
How do we sort all this out? It will take many lifetimes. In the meantime, as we seek to love God and adopt his values, we can show love and concern for those around us, especially those who believe on Christ but also for all our neighbors. This is a love which overcomes the world. It will also help us sort out all those other struggles.
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