TODAY’S READING: 1 John
It is noteworthy that by and large the apostles were martyred outside of Jerusalem and Israel. John, son of Zebedee, was perhaps the only sent one not martyred, though he too died outside of Israel. He wrote 1 John to Christians in Asia Minor around 85 A.D. just before he was exiled on the island of Patmos. We should read this epistle understanding that it, too, is written by a missionary to a missionary church plant.
Like all those the Spirit used to author books of the Bible, John clearly showed that the heart of Jesus is for all the peoples of earth. Writing to those who lived in (present day) Turkey, John assured them that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…[who] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1–2). John wrote to Gentiles, not Jews. John pointed out that Jesus was their Savior as well as the Savior of the Jews and that the gospel should not stop in Turkey—it must keep going to the uttermost parts of the earth. It’s always the “keep going” part that Christians struggle with most. The Jews were happy to be God’s special treasure but not keen on sharing the spiritual wealth. John rejoiced with the believers in Asia Minor that Jesus was their saving Advocate, but reminded them they, too, must share, for Jesus is Savior of the world. We must be conscious of our propensity to revel selfishly in Jesus being ours. We must remember that Jesus globally is ours, He is the Savior of the whole world. Gospel love must keep spreading.
In this light John wrote of Jesus being manifested to take away sins. John has told his readers that the world does not know us and in fact hates us, so both resistance and redemption play out on the global stage. In fact, we know love because Jesus laid down His life for us—as part of the whole world. John said then that we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. The implication is impossible to miss: Jesus laid His life down to save from among every people all who would repent, and this is love. If we are to love, we, too, must lay our lives down that some from among every people might receive forgiveness of sins. We can’t separate John’s teaching about love from Jesus laying down His life for all peoples. John’s not talking about loving our immediate family; he’s talking about the brotherhood of man, every unreached people on earth.
John framed the blessings of God in the context of obeying His commandments and doing the things pleasant in His sight, with the accompanying help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus commanded us to go into the whole world and make disciples of every people, promising us the Holy Spirit as our power and wisdom. First John is in perfect harmony with the gospels and the full Bible narrative, emphasizing that this expected corporate obedience is simply love. Missions is loving our brothers in Afghanistan and beyond.
For in this the love of God was manifested to us—that God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Jesus. And in this we manifest our love to God—that we send our only begotten sons and daughters into God’s world that Jesus might raise the unreached from the dead. The missionary spirit sends. This is how we love the brethren; this is how we love our world.