1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. 10 The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.
Wow. “Those who have been born of God do not sin…they cannot sin because they have been born of God” Really? It was this same writer who in chapter 1 of this letter wrote, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – sins. You know that. I know that. The writer knew that. So what’s this passage about?
We always have to remember that letters such as this were written in a particular context addressing a particular situation. Theologically speaking, the first century church was something of a wild west of ideas. Many of the core beliefs and doctrines we take for granted today (the idea that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, the bodily resurrection, the virgin birth, etc) were still forming. Someone like the apostle John would teach in a particular church, only to be undermined by others upon his departure “Let no one deceive you” (v.7)
In John’s mind those who were teaching a false gospel were “of the devil”. They sought to undermine the integrity of the Christian community, to take down what John and many others had given their lives to establish. I think it was still an open question as to whether the early church would endure, or if it would fade away as had so many other Jewish sects over the centuries. I think passages like this one reveal a person whose blood was up, who was fighting to save a community being torn apart by false teaching from within, persecution from without. John was protecting the flock, which is an important role for a church leader.
But you don’t have to be a church leader to function as a protector. It may be an old fashioned idea, but as the “man of the house” I was raised to protect those I love. It’s one of the responsibilities I take seriously. And while this role is not limited to men, it is particularly expected of men – heads of families. I know, I’m a dinosaur. And I’m okay with that.
Lord give us grace to protect those we love. Amen.