The very few sentences that comprise this week’s epistle— a reading from 1 John 5:9-13— are direct and to the point in a way that Saint John seldom is. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
What does it mean to have the Son of God?
Surely Saint John does not mean that we can own or possess the Son of God as though the Son of God were a thing to be owned? I may own a car, a boat, or a dog, and in that sense there is an implicit relationship between me and the things that I “own.”
Now, while part of ownership implies that I can do what I darn well please with those objects, yet in the concept of ownership it is implicit that I have a responsibility towards those things. The car must be insured, the boat must be waxed, serviced regularly and capable of floating and safely conveying those who go fishing with me. The dog must be licensed, given shots, fed, watered, walked and otherwise cared after. Maybe what is implicit in this passage from Saint John is that there is a responsibility on the part of the believer towards Jesus.
It is not enough to “like” Jesus on Facebook. It is not enough to say, “I believe.” We are challenged to put that belief into action—action that demonstrates that Jesus actually dwells within us and we within him. It is not a theme limited to the Epistle of James that if we are really in Jesus Christ, we will strive to become ever more and more Christ-like by showing our love towards humanity.
Although Saint John gets there in a different way than Saint James, there is that pesky reminder that if we dwell in Jesus we will learn to love as Jesus did.
John tells us that those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. I do not think that Saint John means to say that we can tell a good story about what Jesus did for us—which is generally what is meant by many Christians when they speak about their testimony. The way in which John explains this is different somehow. The gist of it is that if we love Jesus, then what is in our hearts will be brimming with the love of Jesus Christ, and our story will not be so much about what Jesus did for us, as much as it will be about what we are doing for Jesus and in his name.
Preaching the lectionary in the late Easter Season is actually much more challenging that preaching during Lent. In Lent, it does not take rocket science to discover and talk about how we humans have the proclivity towards sin; how we stand in the need of redemption. That’s a whole lot easier than the Eastertide persistence on the theme of love, and how that love must become embedded fully into our hearts if we are to faithfully bear the name of our Savior.