1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
The Apostle John lived in a multicultural and diverse world. The Roman Empire contained many different people from all sorts of backgrounds, nations, and religions. The success of the Empire lay not just in its military strength, but also in its tolerance of different cultures. Romanization of different ethnic groups and races did not involve the complete wiping out of local traditions, gods, and cultures. As long as people did not rebel and paid homage by paying taxes to the Emperor, they could remain under the protection of Rome.
However, when Christianity appeared on the scene, it came into conflict with the Roman authorities almost immediately. The fact that Christ had been crucified under Roman Law meant that His followers were seen as insurrectionists who could not be tolerated or allowed to grow across the Empire. This is why so many of Christ’s original disciples were martyred; they were considered to be hostile extremists whose sole mission was to bring down the Roman Empire. In fact, only the Apostle John who wrote today’s verse, lived to a ripe old age, albeit in exile on a lonely island in the Aegean Sea.
John was writing his first letter to new Christians who may have been frightened by the persecuting power of the Roman authorities. He expressed to them his absolute certainty that Jesus was sent by God in order to lead people to the Truth, so that his readers would know where and from whom to find eternal life. John states it simply and succinctly: ‘we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.’
Today, we have the opportunity of sharing in and experiencing the same reality. Christ alone forgives our sins, draws us to God, and grants us eternal life. In a cosmopolitan, multicultural world, this is currently interpreted as being narrow-minded, exclusive, and intolerant. So what’s new? Those were the very same criticisms and charges that were raised against the Apostle John and the First Century Christians – why should we think that the world would see us any differently?
Questions for personal reflection
What makes me a Christian? Do I accept John’s ancient words that Jesus is the true God and eternal life? Why?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are all seeking the Truth so that our lives can be lived out purposefully, genuinely, and effectively. Keep us mindful of the original beliefs that the Apostles like John had and which the First Christians embraced. In Your Holy Name, may we remain devoted to You. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to make a comment or ask a question about today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Today’s image is one of John’s Pentecost drawings called “Spirit Window.” You can view a larger version at the following link: Spirit Window.