Religion Magazine

Family Resemblance

By Sjbedard @sjbedard

The next segment on my series on 1 John.

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appearswe shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 2:28–3:10 ESV)

John’s teaching that Christians should live righteous lives and avoid sin seems very hard, almost legalistic. But in this passage we begin to see the big picture. Human righteous is not the way to get right with God. John is not attempting to contradict Paul. Something else is going on.

Central to John’s theology is the understanding of Christians as the children of God. That is not just a cute way of saying we are worshippers of God. There is something deeper in this image. John expects that the children of God will be like God in some way. There should be a family resemblance. This is something found in John’s Gospel as well. God is righteous and therefore Christians should be righteous. God is holy and therefore Christians must avoid sin.

We become Christians by faith, but if we are truly children of God we should look and act like our Father. In fact we cannot help but be like our father. Either that father is God or that father is the devil. How we live will reveal who our true father is.

Does that mean every time we sin we are a child of the devil? John does not say that. He is very precise in his words. John is talking about those who make a practice of sinning, that is those will will to live a lifestyle of sin. John has already acknowledged that we all sin on occasion. The question is, are we choosing to move closer to God or closer to the devil?

  • 1 John
  • Children of God
  • John
  • Righteousness
  • Sin

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