When we read a novel or watch a movie we often have to wait for the conclusion to have the different strands come together. The same applies to John’s, one of the first followers of Jesus, letter. It isn’t until the conclusion of his letter that we fully see what he wants us to see:

We know that none of the God-begotten makes a practice of sin—fatal sin. The God-begotten are also the God-protected. The Evil One can’t lay a hand on them. We know that we are held firm by God; it’s only the people of the world who continue in the grip of the Evil One. And we know that the Son of God came so we could recognize and understand the truth of God—what a gift!—and we are living in the Truth itself, in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This Jesus is both True God and Real Life. Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles. 1 John 5:18-21 (The Message)

It isn’t hard, when reading parts of any narrative, to emphasize one bit over another. Seeing the big picture helps us to put things in context and get a take a healthier approach to faith. In John’s lettter we have encountered spiritual situations that solicit fear and anxiety about our relationship with God. It is a serious matter and needs us to have the utmost consideration of our actions toward God and other people. We can live in a way that seperates us from God and we can live in a way that alienates us from other people. This can be through choice or through thoughtlessness but the consequence is the same. The consequence of wilfully rejecting God is the fatal sin that does not allow us the spiritual freedom of an affirming relationship with God. The consequence of acting in ways that alienate others is that we will show ourselves to be rejecting God, even if we claim to be authentic followers of Jesus Christ.

The last, and most important, point that John wants to make serves to remove all fear and anxiety. If we are followers of Jesus Christ then we have an assurance of God’s protection. It doesn’t take a great deal to believe in Jesus and receive salvation. What does take depth of Christian character and dedication to following his ways is the assurance of God’s unconditional love. The greatest fear that is present in the spiritual life of the Christian is how do I keep from sinning and offend God. How can I keep from being brought down by the natural and physical world around me with all the temptation to sin and spiritual snares for the unwarey? The answer, says John, is not in our hands but in the nail scarred hands of Jesus. If we are authentically Christian then we won’t wish to live a life that is in opposition to Jesus’ way. It is likely that we won’t avoid sinning, because that is the way of the world, but the assurance of our faith is that Jesus has taken the cost of all our sin and paid it in full. There is nothing to fear or be anxious about because God is proactive in how he looks after those who are in Christ. The warning John attaches to this good news for believers returns to his earlier warning. Don’t be fooled by those who say they have a better way, are profiteering by saying they have the way of faith, aren’t Jesus (although they may give a very good impression of him). These ‘facsimilies’ will always lack the spiritual depth and assurance of grace that is in Christ. They can be convincing but prey on our fears and anxieties over the matter of eternal life. Remember this, if anything at all from our look at 1 John, in Christ there is nothing to fear or be anxious about, you are God-protected.

Dear God, thank you for the great news of your unconditional love for me and for all people. Help us to be conscious of how sin offends you and seek to live apart from sin. Thank you that when we do sin the assurance of your unconditional love and the sufficiency of Jesus to pay the price of all my sin. Let me not be fearful or anxious again but trust in your love today, tomorrow, and for ever. Amen.