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Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + February 15, 2017

I John 3:21-4:6
Mark 14:43-15:1

I John 3:21-4:6 (NKJV)
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Mark 14:43-15:1 (NKJV)
And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely." As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, "Rabbi, Rabbi!" and kissed Him. Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him. And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled." Then they all forsook Him and fled. Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked. And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes.

But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree. Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'" But not even then did their testimony agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, "Prophesy!" And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.

Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth." But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are saying." And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, "This is one of them." But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, "Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it."Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know this Man of whom you speak!" A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And when he thought about it, he wept. Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.

Commentary 

Today St. John defines for us what love is, in telling us that this is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent His Son to die for our sins. Too often, we read the central commandment of the Scriptures, the command to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, and define love according to some human standard or idea of what loving another person is. The love that we are called to return to God, and to show to others, is not any kind of human love, but Divine Love itself.

For example, to love others is not to have a sort of benign indifference toward them. It does not simply mean to not have any negative feelings toward them and wish them no ill. To wish other people no ill is merely to not hate them, it is not yet to love them. The life we are called to live following Christ is not one of just trying to avoid committing certain sins, but one in which we actually practice, in a positive way, the fruits of the Spirit, the first and greatest of which is love, against which things there is no law. By following Christ and living life in the Spirit, we not only keep the law of God, but we fulfill it, we fill it up to overflowing.

And so, love is not merely wishing others no ill. It is also not any form of using others to meet our own personal needs, whatever those may be. While it should be obvious to us as Christians that love is not to be confused with lust, it should be equally obvious that love should not be confused with our need for companionship, or to have our ego boosted, or even our need to be loved in return. Love is not enjoying the way another person makes us feel , or makes us feel about ourselves.

On the contrary, Love looks like our Lord Jesus Christ, beaten, mocked, and humiliated for our sakes. Love looks like His refusal to speak up for Himself in the face of false charges, even when everyone had abandoned Him. Love looks like His continuing to love us, even when those of us who were closest to Him were denying that we ever knew Him. This is the love that we are called to have for God, the same love which He has for us, making us willing to suffer, to die, to give up everything in this world for His sake. And likewise, though it is difficult, this is the love that we are called upon to have for our fellow human beings, to love them as Christ loves them, and to be willing to sacrifice our own happiness, our interests, our own selves, for their sake. And this not only for the loveable, the ones who love us back or who loved us first, but also for the most unlovable, the most hateful and wicked men and women we will ever meet, who want only to destroy us, as Christ loved and forgave those who tortured and murdered Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, to love other people in this way, even to love God our Creator in this way, is beyond our capabilities as human beings, let alone as sinful men and women. But God has given us His Love in a measure that is overflowing. When we are able to admit that we have no love in ourselves that can compare with the love that God has shown for us, then we are prepared to reflect God's own love back to Him, and to channel His love to those around us. This is the ultimate end of love, that we empty ourselves and love one another with God's love, until that day in His Kingdom when His Spirit and Love become the very air that we breathe.

Questions to Ponder

  1. In St. Mark's Gospel, he makes a special point of showing us that the plot to kill Jesus Christ took place in secret, in the dark, in the night. Though Christ elsewhere taught us to conceal our good works in humility, it is far, far more common, if we are honest, that those things which we hide, those things which we do in secret, in the dark, in the depths of the night are things which we would be ashamed to do in the light of day and in public. Are there things that you do, and with which you struggle, which you carefully conceal from everyone? Do you fear certain things in your life becoming known, even by those closest to you, and what the consequences could be? Do you have brothers and sisters in Christ in the Church with whom you could share these things to receive their accountability, support, and assistance?
  2. In today's epistle reading, St. John says summarizes all of the commandments of God into two: that we believe in Jesus Christ, and love one another. These two, if truly fulfilled, go together. Believing in our Lord Jesus Christ means that we trust in Him to care for us and provide for our needs. This in turn allows us to truly love others, as we are able to put their needs first and sacrifice for them, rather than trying to satisfy ourselves. When you consider your relationships with other people, can you truly say that you love them, in seeking only to please them and not yourself? If not, what needs or desires of your own are you trying to satisfy? Are these needs and desires things that Christ, in fact, satisfies for us?
  3. St. John, in today's epistle, sets a very different icon before us regarding true love, than the ones we are used to from our culture. His icon of love is not any human love whatsoever, but the love of Christ, displayed in His endurance of abuse, shame, punishment, torture, and death for our sakes. This is the type of love to which he calls us today. Is there anyone who you love in this way? Are there other things, like benign indifference or mutually advantageous relationships which you tend to call 'love', rather than the real thing? Are you willing to put forth the struggle and effort that it takes to truly love, especially those who aren't particularly lovable in and of themselves?

Questions or Comments? FrStephen@stgeorgecharleston.org

Note from the Author – No rights reserved. If you find anything good, or helpful, or worthwhile in these Bible studies from week to week, feel free to take and use it as you see fit. I do not need credit.


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