1 John 2:12-14
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for
his sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from
the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have overcome
the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write
to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to
you, young people, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
John has already given a couple of reasons why he is writing this letter.
In the first chapter, verse 3, he says that he is proclaiming this message, "so
that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son Jesus Christ." At the beginning of chapter 2, he says, "I
am writing this to you so that you may not sin..."
What is interesting about this section is that John says he is writing because
of things that are already true about each of these groups. He does not say
here that he is writing in order to get them to do something new of change
the direction of their lives. It seems to me that he writes to remind them
of what is already true about them because of what is true about who Jesus
is and what He has done. John wants to remind them again of this truth, this
reality because, I would think, in the midst of their present circumstances
they are being tempted to forget .
I am sure you noticed that John addresses each group two times in this passage,
using the same order each time. I think that I will look at all of what is
said to each group. Let's look first at his comments to children. As we have
seen, John calls all his readers children at the beginning of chapter 2. But
here, it seems clear he is addressing just children since he mentions young
people and fathers as well. He says he is writing to the children because "your
sins are forgiven for his sake" and "because you know the Father." As
I was mulling over this passage I wondered, why do the children need to hear
these truths in particular. I wondered if children struggle with being sure
they are truly forgiven when they do something wrong. It can be particularly
hard for them to see how one can move past something they did wrong and know
to be wrong. When I have spoken to my own children in those moments when they
recognize that they really blew it, I see that it can be difficult for them
to move forward. Notice John doesn't stop with their sins being forgiven. He
says they are forgiven for His sake not their own. This piece is crucial. When
children (and of course this applies to us as well!) are feeling trapped in
the sin they committed and aware of their own inadequacies, John reminds them
that the way out is not dependent on them. Jesus has forgiven them for His
own sake, because that is who He is. Jesus is Savior at the very core of His
being and we can count on Him to forgive us, not because of who we are or what
we have done. We count on who He has shown us He is. So John reminds the children
that their forgiveness lies not in their own worth or talents but in the very
character of God--this is both very freeing and humbling, isn't it?
Secondly, John says he writes to the children because they know the Father.
I would think they might be tempted to respond, "We do?" John says
yes, you know Him. I don't think he is saying that they already know everything
there is to know about their heavenly Father since he wants them to grow in
their ability to discern, as we will see later in the letter. But, I do think
he is encouraging them to realize they have a knowing relationship with the
Father that is established. Now they can grow in it--they do not have to start
the relationship themselves. And if we connect this phrase with the earlier
one, John seems to be saying that they know Him and they are forgiven because
of who God is and that is why they can count on Him--He is acting out of who
He is, not out of who we are.
Now let's look at the 2 phrases addressed to the young people. They are very
similar with each other, but the second one expands Johns point. The first
time John says he is writing to the young people because "you have overcome
the evil one" and the second time because "you are strong, and the
word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." Again,
I wonder if the young people who first heard this were a bit surprised, "I
have overcome the evil one?" These are great words that John addresses
to the youth. There is so much going on in those years, so many pressures.
We all remember, I am sure, the struggles of these years and how everything
seems so crucial. It can be very hard to stay anchored. There are plenty of
times when one feels anything but strong. Linda, my daughter, is now at this
age and we talk a lot about the pressures she faces at school: the pull to "fit
in" and all the things that threaten to pull her off center. What great
words John says here and how freeing and reassuring they are to those in the
midst of youth. John says they have already overcome the evil one. But again,
this isn't dependent on them, their own strength. John reminds them that "the
word of God abides in you." God has already done a work in you, John is
saying, and the battle against the evil one is won. Don't think when you face
these daily pressures that assault you that you are defenseless or that the
outcome is still to be determined and dependent on you. You can resist evil
because God is truly in you and He has overcome.
If you look at John's word to both children and youth, He is reminding them
of the truth of who they are in Christ. So that they can hold onto that in
the midst of a world that sends other messages.
Now let's look at John's words to fathers. He says the same thing both times
to them! I guess he felt it bears repeating and that the most important thing
to remind them of is that they know God and that He is from the beginning.
Why does he emphasize for the parents that the God they know is the One from
the beginning? Well, I think because it is so tempting for fathers (and mothers
too!) to believe that parenting is all up to them, that they are in a sense "the
beginning"--where the buck stops. But John wants to remind them to keep
their perspective in line with the truth. God is the One from the beginning.
Before these fathers were fathers, were even thinking of becoming fathers,
God was Father. God has always been Father and our parenting is done in that
truth. God is my Father, as well as, the Father of my children. I am being
Fathered by Him as I am mothering and Gary is fathering our kids. And He Fathers
them as well and they grow up to be my brothers and sisters in Christ.
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