3 January – First Reading

Commentary on 1 John 2:29 – 3:6

We now move on to the second part of John’s letter: “that we should be called children of God”.  In this part, there are three ‘conditions’ to be fulfilled if we are to be truly children of God.  The first condition, part of which we read today, is ‘to break with sin’. 

It is a reading full of hope, and begins with an introduction to this part of the letter. We are reminded that we are the special objects of God’s love, and in a very real sense, can be called his children. And, if that is what we already are, what is in store for us in the life that is to come when we will see the Father face to face? 

What we do know is:

…when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Whatever true holiness is seen in us is always a reflection of God’s own holiness, because he is the one and only source of all that is true and good. If we are faithful now, we are endeavouring to be like Jesus but, face to face with our God, we will be utterly transformed and united with him.

And when that truth and love, which is poured into our hearts, is allowed to express itself through our words and actions, then we become in a very special sense God’s children, true reflections of our Father. If the world, that is, the world of sin and moral anarchy, does not recognise us for what we are, it is because it has not been able to see the presence of God in Jesus and his life.

The greatest sign of God’s love is the gift of his Son (John 3:16), which has made us true children of God. True knowledge of God (not the Gnostic kind) will ultimately be gained by, with God’s help, living virtuous lives in imitation of Jesus, God’s Son.

And if being God’s children is a source of so much happiness and consolation now, imagine what the future life will be like! Again:

What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

That is something that is totally beyond our capacity right now.

Some of the mystics who have been given glimpses of the reality of God confess themselves utterly helpless in trying to express their experiences in words. But it has given them a terrible longing to have that full vision which is promised to us.

We now come to the ‘first condition’. If we are to have that face-to-face experience there has to be a total break from everything that is contrary to God’s way. To prepare to enjoy that vision – the one and only goal of all living – is, with God’s help, to remain single-minded (pure) in our quest. 

Sin is to be removed from our lives. “Sin is lawlessness” not just in the sense of failing to keep rules and regulations, but in failing to live according to the deepest demands of truth and love. To be without truth and love is to create huge obstacles to having that face to face vision with the Source of all Truth and Love. 

We have here a reference to the activity of the antichrist, expressed as hostility towards God and a rejection of Christ. Christians do not escape sin, but realise that when they sin, they cease to have fellowship with God.  Virtue and sin distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil. 

For the Gnostics, behaviour was not important; only the right knowledge was what mattered. It is not possible to be both close to Jesus, and to live a life of sin:

No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.

This is again directed against those Gnostics who felt that the only thing that mattered was to have this special ‘spiritual’ knowledge, and that what happened in our bodies was of no consequence.  Immoral acts could be indulged in with impunity. 

The secret of being free from sin in that sense is to submit totally to the Way of Jesus, who takes away all sin in those who turn to him in a spirit of reconciliation:

No one who abides in him sins…

As we will see later in the letter, love and sin are incompatible. Let us then pray that we may remain ever close, intimately close, to Jesus.

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