This past weekend, a group of people descended upon a chunk of property in Hearne, Texas, owned by Jack Wisdom, an elder at Ecclesia in Houston, in order to talk about the very broad topic of “Christ & Culture” — we narrowed that down to a look at 1 John.
To be perfectly honest, this was a first for me. Never before had I had an academic discussion about a Biblical text with this many committed Christians. Several of us were examining 1 John with Greek texts open and discussing the meanings of terms like κόσμος, ἐπιθυμία, and μένειν. In this sense, it was refreshing.
While we looked at the letter as a whole, the majority of the discussion focused on 1 John 2:15–17 (I have blogged previously about this section: 1 John 2:15, 1 John 2:16, 1 John 2:17). I can’t say that what I wrote there has changed based on our discussion. However, an interesting aspect that was hitherto unexplored did rise up out of this:
Love not the world nor the things in the world.
What the heck does this mean? I thought I was supposed to love my brothers, whether they be brothers in Christ or no. Yet, here John seems to be espousing some sort of isolationist movement. Is that really the case? I don’t think so.
In my mind, I had always taken κόσμος to mean “sin” (metaphorically). I don’t disagree with that now, I’ve just thought about it a little more. This section goes on to define what things are “in the world”: desires of the flesh, desires of the eye, and pride of life(style). We are to hate (or “not love”) these things. The practitioners of these, however, are human beings, and as such are deserving of our love and respect, no matter how painful that may be.
Jack brought up a book called Brother to a Dragonfly by Will Campbell. In this memoir Campbell recounts how he came to understand that Ku Klux Klansmen were human beings. At a civil rights rally populated with activists, Campbell stood before the group and told them that he was “pro-Klansman” — but they didn’t see the distinction between “pro-Klansman” and “pro-Klan.” Campbell saw loving and serving members of the KKK as a way for him to live out Jesus’ command to “love your enemies.”
That is some profound stuff, brothers and sisters.
Time for the Bottom-Line:
I can sit and have an erudite conversation with you on a variety of New Testament topics. However, that conversation is a breath in the wind; unless it leads to action. Jesus’ call for us to abide in him (verbiage that runs rampant throughout the Johannine material) is not just a mystery; it’s a ministry — a call to action.