WHERE IS THE LOVE? This is a chief question in the epistle that is 1 John. It is the writer’s great concern that:
“... it is possible for a group of Christians [a church] to be very orthodox in theology and moral in outward behaviour and yet have very little love for one another.”
— James Montgomery Boice (1938–2000)
That was his context, as he wrote to a church that had lost fellowship with a group of secessionists. Who was right (whose love was without fault) in the overall equation? It seems in this situation that it was those left behind in the church – those who questioned and had doubts as to whether they were even in the right. And that is an indicator of love; humbleness to consider that we could be in the wrong. Such a humbleness is closer to love and finding the truth, and establishing a reverence to righteousness (meeting 1 John’s three tests of a child of God) than simply seeing only what we did that was right.
Biblical Knowledge as a Stumbling Block
There are many this will potentially upset. Many of those who could or should be upset may otherwise join in, and say “here, here, good word!” and not see that such a word is for them. I write in fear and trembling, for such a word is for me, too, for I see the great ‘scholars’ (not many real scholars) – who usually don’t have doctorates to back up their love-bereft fervour – and I tend to judge them. That is my fault and my lack of righteousness – a silly self-righteousness as a rebound for their lack of Christian sensitivity.
They have a world of knowledge, yet they may not know the gospel.
In writing this I have to remain committed to love, first and foremost; a practical and lived thing; a preparedness to forgive promptly, to extend grace (where favour would be otherwise undeserved), and to journey with God proactively on the matters of my hurt and hang-ups. I must remember, in my own being, for I’m liable to forget, that love comes first (the gospel ideal/the gospel imperative) and what follows, secondly, is adroitness of doctrinal view.
A Christian must not put the cart (doctrine) before the horse (love). Love does not cling to anything so tightly as to create relational barriers to the conquest of personal victories. Love is always inclusive, accepting of other views (without need to hold to those views), and utterly respectful.
Love is the test we speak of. Love of fellow must come before love of doctrine. Acceptance, inclusivity, and utter and undying respect are at the forefront of love. We aren’t commanded to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” of our theology and still not love – yet we are commanded to love our brothers and sisters.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.