Some in the early Christian communities asserted that Jesus was fully divine but not fully human. The writer calls them liars and antichrists (2:22). It’s easy to appreciate his passion. If Jesus Christ is only divine, then we who are “only human” can’t expect to love and live as he did.
Lest we assign such heresy to the dustbin of church history, an honest reading of our history reveals that the doctrine is alive and well. Whenever Christians focus exclusively on the satisfaction and substitutionary doctrines of the Atonement, what “Jesus did for me on the cross,” the focus shifts from our obeying God’s commandments as Jesus did to our believing that only Jesus did.
Scholars suspect the distortion may have risen from the Docetists or the Gnostics. Both camps value Jesus’ spirituality to the exclusion of his humanity. The Word that became flesh and lived among us, it is claimed, did so to free us from the flesh the Word became.
For this reason the writer of First John affirms that believing Jesus is the Christ entails our being born of God as he is. When we are born of God, we become conquerors with Jesus of the world of dehumanizing belief and social systems. Our faith is not an intellectual assent to an esoteric doctrine but a transformation into being the transformers of the world that Jesus shows us we really are.
It makes all the difference in the world whether we limit Jesus by thinking of him as an abstract idea to be believed or as a voluntary enlisting into an group of people that seeks to love the world as God so loved it through his only Son. When such love conquers the world as we know it, what a wonderful world it will be.
O God, make us your children as revealed in Jesus. Amen.
The Acts passage continues to tell the story of the advance of the gospel. The Holy Spirit falls on a group of Gentiles. They believe and are baptized, thus showing God’s inclusion of all peoples in the plan of salvation. Psalm 98 is a simple declaration of praise. All creation will sing to and rejoice in the Lord. The two passages from John are linked by their emphasis on the relationship between love and obedience. We do not follow God’s commandments in order to make God love us. On the contrary, because God has first loved us and we love God in return, we follow God’s teachings. Jesus provides the model for us, being obedient to his Father out of love.
• Read Acts 10:44-48. When has the Spirit of God brought you to a new understanding?
• Read Psalm 98. Does the guest of honor’s coming to judge the earth make you feel easy or uneasy? Why?
• Read 1 John 5:1-6. Is your life one of “oughts,” “musts,” and “shoulds”? Do you impose them on yourself, or do they come from others? How do you move toward loving obedience?
• Read John 15:9-17. How do you experience yourself as a manifestation of the Logos?
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