1 John 3:1-8
In 1 John 3, there is a great pep talk from John as he exhorts the people to whom he writes and us today to be like Jesus and to relish being children of God. It marks us out as different and we will therefore look strange to citizens of the world as we live a life that is marked by Characteristics that belong to Jesus and of course to the kingdom of God which is where we truly have our home.
Verse 1 is a reminder that we are different and will look different.
This is a good thing.
Years ago, my grandparents lived in a cottage at the bottom of their village and next to the railway line. The school children going to the Secondary School for the area would have to pass their window each morning and evening as they made their way to and from the station platform. In the 1980s, hair was big and permed or streaked with blonde stripes - often done with kits at home.
Eye make up was bold and my grandparents were unimpressed by the ‘sights’ they saw. Particularly vocal was my grandma about ‘black lead’ and sloppy dressing.
My grandparents didn’t understand fashion and they certainly didn’t appreciate it - although I managed to persuade her to knit me one or two jumpers that weren’t covered in sheep or kittens.
For my grandparents, to stand out from the crowd was to be an embarrassment and they would wax lyrical about the poor misfit girl with her old fashioned shoes and dated school blouse and tidily permed hair who was an example to everyone else.
They didn’t understand because they were not part of the culture.
We look at the cultural rift between the children of God and the people among whom they lived- the well-meaning philosophers who were convinced that their way was right; The people of the towns who followed other gods and idol worship; the ones who had never met Jesus, either in bodily person like John, or in spiritual conversion like so many of the early church.
How could they understand what they did not know?
John’s joy is bursting out from him as he declares the honour of belonging to God as his own children. Misfits in this world -yes, not understood by the culture around them - definitely. But this is an opportunity for witness and evangelism. The world that doesn’t know him will not know him unless it sees him. The people that we are is also the witness to the world of the love of God in Jesus Christ. You are children of God, bearing the family likeness, and it is you who show the Father to the world. What does that look like?
During the 1990s, ripped jeans became fashionable among young people and this trend made its way into church. One of our dear ladies, who had been in service at one of the big houses as a girl and for a lot of her life really couldn’t cope with the brokenness and un-mended jeans. She was desperate to take them home and fix them up using her skills for invisible mending and have them properly presentable. She didn’t like the fact that her skills and current fashion were at odds. I think she may even have attended church with a few needles ready threaded, just in case she were able to throw a few stitches in and get them sorted out.
No amount of persuading her that ‘this is how they’re worn’ could convince her that ripped jeans was an actual thing. And she was more horrified when we told her that they could be bought this way.
People who don’t know Jesus personally will never understand the children of God: the hope, the joy, the delight in service, the joy of worship, the desire to read the Word, the passion for holding to the authority of the Scriptures.
Meanwhile, those who do know Jesus and who are taking delight in the things of Jesus are coming progressively like him. This is progressive Christianity, to move in the ways of Jesus, becoming more like him in every aspect. To be progressively more God-honouring in both life and lifestyle.
John is anxious to let us know that being in Jesus does indeed take away the love of sinning. The deeper into faith we fall, the more holy we become.
Progressing into the person of Jesus so that we respond to the world only from the viewpoint of the Father. This is enacted in our obedience to God, in our rejecting the priorities of the world and to focus on God and on his priorities. An evangelism that is honest and open to the power of the holy spirit and that brings us always to the foot of the cross and to Jesus again and again who, by his full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice made a way into the life of Father God for all of us.
We do not come to God by asserting our rights to exist how we choose, but by choosing Jesus and the way of the cross, they way of Jesus’ perfect love.The way of surrender and of service. In so doing we progress in the life of faith, becoming like Jesus and less like the world in which we live.
The culture of ripped Jeans was never going to be understood by someone for whom it was so alien.
The culture of Christ will not be understood by those who are so outside it that they cannot see the hope in Jesus, the delight in being a child of God and the hope for the world.
John gently calls the people of Jesus to be evangelists.
To shake of sin and to live in the world as children of God, bearing witness to God’s love.
Will you join them?