After reading through 1 John, instead of doing it by chapter I wanted to identify themes. It is a letter which would not have been broken down into chapters, looking at themes will connect what it is meant to say in its entirety. For this blog I wanted us to look at the theme of love and hatred which is dominant throughout the letter. It is the pinnacle between life and death, John makes it clear that hatred in any sort cannot be part of our faith at all. The believers who choose to hold onto hate are those who will remain in darkness, which will blind them from goodness. They are portrayed as murderers who can have no place in the eternal life. Where as those who choose to love, are those who have passed over from death to life. John writes how we are to love our brothers and sisters, and what that looks like within our faith. I understand that the topic of hate and forgiveness is hard one, we have all gone through stuff where we have been incredibly hurt; some more than others. I hope through reading this, that it will not come over as a harsh criticism but rather a blog in which you can allow the grace and the strength of God to work through your life.
There is a strong emphasis in this letter on love and hatred. John makes it clear in 2v7 that the command to love one another was not a new law. It was part of the Old Testament commandments; love the Lord your God above all else and to love your neighbour as yourself, which is reflected through the ten commandments. The difference that Jesus added was to love your enemies ‘You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbours and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’, (Matt 5v43-44). In a world where hatred is still prominent, this is a real calling for our lives today. As John writes, our faith cannot be shaped by hatred at all. 2v9 ’Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in darkness’. Verse 11 elaborates further to state that anyone who hates walks in darkness ‘they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.’
John furthered his writing on love and hatred, later in chapter three. Verse 14 ‘… whoever does not love abides in death.’ John then writes that those who choose to hate their brothers and sisters are labelled as ‘murderers’. It is a harsh label to put on someone, but the reality is, when hate filled it distorts vision and in no way would they be wishing the best for that person. It is a reminder that as a person, if we are choosing to hate then we will have no place in eternal life. We are reminded in verse 16 that the greatest act of love was Jesus laying down his life us, when there was no good in us but only sin. Many of us will hold grudges and hate over the tiniest of things. As we continue to harbour that grudge, what started as something so small turns into something it was never meant to be. As Jesus was willing to sacrifice his life, as followers we need to learn to sacrifice who we are.
Not many of us will be asked to sacrifice our lives for others. However, we must learn to sacrifice our pride and our status. That is hard to do in a world that is largely based on status, who you are is what gives you honour in this world. That should not be something that should be allowed to shape our faith. As followers of Christ, we need to learn to imitate him even when Jesus was being crucified, for doing nothing wrong. He still cried out ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’ Our sins led to Jesus being on the cross, yet Jesus still chose to love us and die for us. Therefore, we could live a life of freedom and live a life with a renewed purpose and hope.
A parable that puts the teachings of harbouring hatred into perspective, is that of The Unmerciful Servant. The overview of the parable, that can be found in Matthew 18v21-35, is the king is brought a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. There was no way this man could pay this debt, he was to lose everything in order for this debt to be repaid. The servant begs for a chance to be forgiven and be able to repay his debt. The master takes pity on the servant and chooses to cancel his debt in its entirety. However, the servant then goes out and demands a small amount from a fellow servant. Who like the first servant could not repay his debt but instead of being merciful, has the servant thrown in jail. The news gets back to the King, who throws the first servant in jail and has him tortured until he can repay the debt. It is a valuable lesson for us within our faith. We are that first servant who has been redeemed from an unpayable debt. When we demand recompense for others, for the faults that they have. We become that unmerciful servant, we are forgetting what the foundation of our faith is built upon. That is the sacrifice of Jesus for all our sins.
This is a warning to us all who choose to pursue hatred, but sometimes it can be so hard to love people who have hurt us. The people who have done us wrong and have broken us in unspeakable ways. This is something that I really struggled to come to terms with and I am still learning. One lesson I was taught, and I believe it was from ‘The Shack’, that forgiving and letting go of hatred is not for the other person. Instead it is for release for us. ‘Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat. Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive.’ If we hold onto hate, we are adding a burden onto our own life. Most of the time when we choose to hate someone, they have no regard for it at all they just carry on living their life. Constantly choosing to hate, leads to more misery for our lives.
Although, forgiveness does not inevitably lead us to love that person straight away; it does allow us to let grace and love into the situation. Instead of feeling forced to love someone, over time it becomes easier to live a life where we are not blinded by our hate. That we begin to live again, seeing the goodness in other people. To live a life with a renewed purpose, where we seek to love. From my own experience learning to forgive and letting go of hatred takes time. It does begin to become easier when we choose not to harbour hate. Hate only blinds us from life and being in relationship with God. 2018 has been a year where I have had to learn to let go of hate and not only forgive others but to forgive myself, it is something that God has done slowly and surely. The people and things that use to anger my soul no longer have that hold on me.
Learning to love each day is an important command, 3v18 ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ As we continue to pursue Christ we are called to live a life of love which is not just inwards but should be extended outwards. The love that we have should permeate throughout out actions and our speech. The whole theme of love will be explored further in next week’s blog but for now the end of chapter three states, ‘And this is his command: to believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: we know it by the spirit he gave us.’ This is what will be focused on for next week. I pray that if you are struggling with hate or forgiveness, that it would be something that you begin to pray over. Also, do not be ashamed to speak to someone about it and allow them to help you through all you are dealing with.
You are so loved and how we are called to live, was never meant to be done on our own. Keep on trusting God daily, in all you do, with all your being. Allow his grace and love to shape you into the person you are meant to be.
May God bless you throughout this week. Keep the faith. Love Victoria.