Back at the beginning of the year, I started slowly working my way through 1 John. This past week I just finished. I’m so grateful to be able to slowly work through a part of the Bible like this. Last year I read completely through the Bible and I can never decide which I prefer: reading though everything fairly quickly or slowly moving though a smaller chunk. I connected with one of the major themes in this letter and the next few posts are the results of my investigation. I’ve broken it up into smaller pieces so it’s easier to digest so be sure to read them in order or you might not know what’s going on.
What Else is There?
Growing up, I loved The Swan Princess. To this day, it’s one of my favorite animated movies. My siblings and I would go through stretches where we would watch it every single day at least once. We had some kind of deluxe edition on VHS with a weird music video after the credits by an obscure Japanese band. The Swan Princess has it all. Romance, comedy, action, and perhaps the worst haircut in cinematic history. What the heck Prince Derek?
At this stage in my life, my favorite part is when Derek finally realizes that he does want to be with Odette after all these years of being pledged to her. He emphatically decrees that the wedding is to be arranged but Odette stops him in his tracks. Up to this point, Derek has not stopped talking about how wonderful and beautiful she is but Odette wants to know if this is for real. With plenty of appropriate sass, she asks “Is that all? Is beauty all that matters to you?” Taken aback and probably very confused, Derek replies, “What else is there?” Everyone but the Prince immediately realizes this is the wrong answer. Later, we discover that Odette simply wanted to make sure that Derek truly loved her, just for being her. After talking it out with his best friend and an advisor, Derek comes to the same understanding. He just assumed that she knew he loved her but now he knows he has to prove it in a big way but it’s too late. Odette is stolen away by an evil sorcerer and placed under a spell. Lots of other stuff happens but the important part is that Derek has to prove his love for Odette to the world with a vow of everlasting love. He is eventually able to do this and they live happily ever after.
I learned at a young age that just saying nice things about a person isn’t always enough. You have to love them, express that love, and prove that love. All that Odette wanted was all that anyone wants: to know that they are loved just for being who they are. She desired proof of this love. Once Derek finally understood this, he had to prove it. He had to overcome all kinds of things by taking massive action to prove to Odette and everyone else that he truly loved her.
This year I have been slowly reading and studying my way through 1 John. One of the preeminent themes of this letter is love. While John explains various aspects of love, my focus recently has been love for God. I have been asking questions like, what does it mean to love God? How do I know I love and know God? How do I know someone else loves and knows God? What does God say is loving God? etc… I am so grateful that John very clearly answers my questions in a way that I can easily understand.
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:3-4
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3
When I claim to know and love God, I want to be certain that I am doing this the right way. I want to have a better answer than Prince Derek if God asks me “Is that all?” I want to be able prove my love for God. I don’t see many Christians trying to live their lives this way. So many people speak very passionately about the mercy, love, power, and beauty of God. Almost any time a celebrity, rapper, or athlete wins or accomplishes something, the first words out of their mouth are “Thank you God, He helped me…” But at the same time, they live lives that would make even a first century heathen blush. I think that God could at any time ask each one of us, “Is that all? Is beauty all that matters to you?” I’m afraid that many will incredulously answer “what else is there?” I know that I do NOT want that to be my answer. Heck, I don’t even want God to have to ask me that question. I want to live a life with Him that proves my love for Him to the world and I want to help others do the same. When I think about my love for God or someone else claims they have for God, I say to myself, “How are we proving it? What else is there beyond all this talk?”
Check back later for part 2