How 1 John 3 Informs My Faith
We all have passages in Scripture that rise to the top for us and become a personal sacred canon within the communal sacred canon of the Bible. Parts of 1 John 3—a chapter in the first of three letters ascribed to the evangelist, John, and directed to Christian communities steeped in the perspective of the Gospel of John—have been in my personal canon since I was a teenager.
It was not because 1 John 3 was highlighted in church, at least enough to make an impression upon me there. It was during freshman year of high school when my headmistress decided to require all students to memorize a Bible passage every week, to be written out in a quiz on Monday in English class, that 1 John 3:1-3 entered my heart and has lived there ever since.
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us
That we should be called the sons of God! And so we are.
Therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew him not.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be
But we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him
for we shall see him as he is.
And every man who hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
(1 John 3:1-3 King James Version)
I confess that I now read and study it as an amalgam of the Revised Standard Version which uses “children” rather than “sons,” and “all” instead of “man.” Yet, I think the identification of myself with the King James Version in a girls’ school helped me greatly to look past gender distinctions.
1 John 3 planted deep within my self that I am beloved by God. And I saw clearly the “we” of believers in Christ so that any who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior is a beloved child of God who will see Jesus as He is, when He appears. When everyone who has this hope of seeing Jesus purifies himself (or herself) then they are all pure.
It was easy for me then, when I came to know lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender believers, to accept that they, just like all other believers, purified themselves by their faith.
Another place in 1 John 3 that had a great impact upon my faith in Christ comes often to my mind at this time of year. From the summer after sixth grade, until the camp closed when I was a junior in college, I was a camper and a counselor at Sea Pines Camp, a girls’ camp on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
At Sea Pines there was a pine grove with simple benches where we all gathered for chapel every Sunday afternoon. On that day we always wore white uniforms, rather than the weekday white and blue.
Part of the chapel service was a roll call of every counselor and camper from the oldest to the youngest. When your name was called, you knew to stand and recite the Bible verse that was assigned to you in chapel during your first summer. One of them, routinely given to a younger camper because it was short, continues to direct me to this very day. It comes from 1 John 3:11: “Love one another.”
Through the years, as I have reflected on this commandment from 1 John 3 and have come to know so many wonderful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people—both inside and outside the church—it prompts, in me, this question: What part of “Love one another” do we still not understand?
In my heart and mind “Love one another” is simply another way of saying, “Love your neighbor.” and those neighbors most certainly include our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.
That’s how 1 John 3 informs my faith. I hope you share with me how it informs yours.
Reverend Janet Edwards