There’s a moment in 1 John 2 where the writer erupts into song. “I write to you, children! I write to you, fathers! I write to you, young ones! Because your sins are forgiven! Because you know the Father! Because you are strong! Because the word of God abides in you! Because you have overcome the evil one!” (1 John 2:12-14) John sings the song twice because that’s how we humans best remember things, by putting it in rhythm and repeating it. With this song John names the church as family, as children of God, as parents and guardians to next generations, as young people still learning who we are and where we’re going. With this song John embeds within us the gospel, the good news that is already ours. We are already pronounced forgiven and strong and overcomers. God’s word already abides within us. We are not consumers searching for these things. They are already true. Imagine what life, work, relationships would look like if we lived our lives not trying to move toward this good news, but moving from this good news toward each other.
Moving from this good news means pointing our love in the right directions, as John says next. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever.” (2:15-17) “World” is a versatile word in the New Testament (used quite positively and lovingly in our famous John 3:16). But here John refers to world as the sum total of ideas, assumptions, structures and values that make up human society, as well as that which is born not from the heart of God, but from human rebelliousness. Don’t give your love to anything not born from the heart of God, says John. Don’t point your love at anything born from human rebelliousness and thereby push God’s love right out of the picture. The world makes us all kinds of promises, promises of greater fulfillment, greater pleasure, greater security – all the while being incapable of actually delivering on any of it. The desire of the flesh is the desire of the ego, that thing in us that is always in a state of wanting something, that is never satisfied with what already is. The world, the flesh, the ego – it’s all passing away. Why bother giving our love to it? The word and love of God are finding their way deeper and deeper into our hearts. And at the same time his word and love are sinking deeper into us, everything broken and corrupt and deceitful in the world is fading out of existence.
Sooner or later, something or someone is going to make us a promise, a promise to make us more happy, more loved, more safe. When that promise is made to us, let us hear the song John has been singing. Your sins are forgiven. Already forgiven. You know the Father, already. You are strong, already. The word of God abides in you, already. You have overcome evil, already.
What more could anyone else promise us?