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How 1 John 3 Informs My Faith

7/29

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.

Peace,

Reverend Janet Edwards


7 Responses
  • Donna on July 30, 2011

    Dear Janet,

    I’m sorry I’ve not been here a while and apologize beforehand for not being here for a while yet to come…

    You remind me here of some of the better days of my youth, namely a time when I had a great passion for Christ, a great passion for the truth, and a belief that my love for writing was God’s gift to me (note: I do not say “talent”; rather, the love was God’s gift).

    Life has a way of wearing these things down, though, and they are all but a mist to me now. From the wilderness I came and to the wilderness I return.

    But I thank you for the reminder of finer days.

    God Bless…

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on July 30, 2011

    Dear Donna,

    Good to hear from you! I am very glad that this post reminded you of your passions.

    Your comments on Timetoembrace belie your claim that these have been lost in the mists of time. I trust any wilderness you feel you are in will blossom in due time.

    I look forward to your further word here when the Spirit moves you.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on August 5, 2011

    Thanks Janet…God Bless…

  • Konnie on January 19, 2012

    How about it being an abomintions? Leviticus 18:22 20:13 / Romans 1:26-27 / 1Corinthians 6:9-10

  • Janet Edwards on January 19, 2012

    Dear Konnie,

    Thank you for sharing on Timetoembrace. I hope you will come again and expand upon your thinking in your comments,

    I need your help to respond to your question here, as it is not clear to me what you are referring to when you ask about “it.” I need to know what you re asking about more precisely.

    I do know that there is disagreement in the church regarding interpretation of the three passages you cite. There are many who see the sin in Leviticus to be idolatry, in Romans to be irresponsible sex and in 1 Corinthians to be child prostitution. I trust you and I can agree upon all three of these as sin.

    I look forward to your further clarification.

    Peace, Janet

  • Konnie on January 21, 2012

    The rest of 1 John 3:4-10
    4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you.Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 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 rto destroy the works of the devil. 9 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. 10 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.

  • Janet Edwards on January 21, 2012

    Dear Konnie,

    Thanks for reminding us of another part of 1 John 3. I wish you would add why it is that you share these quotes from Scripture. I have my ideas of where you are coming from but I would like to have it from you rather than guess.

    Based on my guesses, two thoughts come to my mind.

    First, I trust that you and I agree with John on the grievousness of sin as expressed here. Where I am guessing we disagree in on whether same gender sexual intimacy is a sin or not. That is what we need to clarify and talk about.

    Second, for much of Christian history any sexual act was viewed as sin. This is based on Paul’s warnings about marriage and preference for celibacy. It is one foundation for the on-going requirement of celibacy for priests in the Roman Catholic Church and for bishops in the Orthodox Church. At a certain point that judgment was lifted in my stream of Christian tradition. And it is lifting now for LGBT people.

    I look forward to you thoughts.

    Peace, Janet


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