By: Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: 1 John 2.7-11
Note to the Reader
Each month we examine one book from the Bible, that book may be from the Old Testament or the New Testament. While we live in the New Covenant, everything is written for our learning (Romans 15.4, 2 Timothy 3.16); since this is true, then we seek God’s instructions and wisdom from everywhere within the Bible. This month, I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of First John in conjunction with this article.
Blinded by the…
If there is one word that could describe the temperament of America, it would be argumentative. Arguments abound. It simply is not enough that we disagree, but in many circles disagreements have turned into heated debates that involve lashing out with name-calling and other various assaults on a person’s character. The political arena is filled with such behavior. The entertainment field also seems filled with disputes and vilifications. In an environment such as ours where leaders and entertainers set the tone for discussion, is it any wonder that we feel pushed around in our own private worlds?
There is one thing on which each of us can probably agree: disagreement(s) will always be. People disagree about which political party is best. People disagree about philosophy. People even disagree about music styles. It seems that there is more disagreement than agreement. The interesting thing is: the reader may even disagree with my statements, hence my point. With so much disagreement going on, how true it is that “Blessed are the peacemakers.”1
How difficult is it to truly get along with the one you disagree with? What we mean by that is going beyond the idea of “agreeing to disagree” because generally that implies an attitude of “you go your way and I’ll go mine.” Unfortunately it seems that disagreements can boil and fester, which leads to vilification and outright hatred. It is a challenge for Christians who do not just disagree politically but differ doctrinally and theologically to learn how to get along.
While there are passages that seem to speak of avoiding certain disciples,2 it simply is not valid to reference Paul and Barnabas3 as example of disagreement and split. If this example serves as proof for a church to say to a member or a member to say to a church “you go your way and I’ll go mine” then details within the narrative context have been excluded.
Paul and Barnabas were traveling evangelists, not churches. They were not members of a church in particular, even though each of them served churches for brief and extended time periods. These men were ordained to be itinerant preachers proclaiming the Good News. They disagreed about how John Mark would function in carrying out that task, so they split company to accomplish their mission objectives. These men in no way would sanctify a church division. There are too many other passages from Paul admonishing Christians and churches to work together and work things out.4
Confronting the issues that divide is one thing, resolving those differences is another. But there is one concept that we should take from John that will help us, consider the following passage:
9Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.5
In the face of disagreements and arguments, this passage from John reminds us to love each other. The question: Is love truly strong enough to build a bridge? Some will say, “Yes.” Some will say, “No.” Here is what we know from the passage. The one who truly loves his brother or sister will find a way to not hate them. This is a challenge. Because we now start asking questions like, “Does dislike equal hate?” “Can I love my brother and not like what he does?” Can I love my sister and not enjoy her interpretation of the Scripture?” Perhaps Strong’s can help us in answering this question.
Strong’s says that hate means “to detest (especially to persecute)” but it is his next statement that causes me to pause; hate “by extension [is] to love less.”6 That is interesting. Over the years this writer could point to various brethren that have done things that really grind me personally, yet in the face of that I would not claim to detest them; but with retrospect of Strong’s identification of loving less his definition hits very close to home. There are times that I have loved certain brethren less than others; and I imagine the reader could point to similar instances for themselves.
Continuing with John’s statement about darkness, I would have to say that my ego does not permit me to say that I walk in darkness. I still go to church. I still associate with Christians. So what does it mean to hate? It seems possible that loving less might be the equivalent of hate. The reader might ask, “Why?” Because when a disciple’s love is less for brother A than brother B, the disciple is less likely to sacrifice for brother A. In this instance, it becomes possible that my less love has blinded me to true love.
While biblically true, it has become all too easy to say “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”7 When that statement was made, it was ground breaking, new, fresh. Is it possible that our familiarity with the passage and its influence over the last two-thousand years causes us to lose sight of what it means to love God, love the brethren and love the world? God sacrificed from his best to offer hope. In the face of such great sacrifice let us not have less love for any brother or sister; but love every one equally and esteem each better than ourselves.8 May our Father bless us as we seek to love him, ourselves and each other.
1. “Peacemakers.” Matthew 5.9, NASB.
2. “Avoiding certain disciples.” Romans 16.17-18, Titus 3.10-11, NASB.
3. “Paul and Barnabas Part Company.” Acts 15.36-41, NASB.
4. “Paul urging Christians and churches to work it out.” Romans 14.13-17, 1 Corinthians 1.10-17, 3.1-9, Galatians 6.1-5, Philippians 4.2-3, NASB.
5. “Darkness.” First John 2.9-11, TNIV.
6. “Hate.” Strong’s Greek Definitions (G3404), e-Sword version 7.9.8.
7. “God loved the world.” John 3.16, NASB.
8. “Esteem Others.” Philippians 2.3, NASB.