Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Message of 1 John (With a Nod to Philipp Jacob Spener)

Here at DBO it's all about good books, and here's one of the best -- a Christian "classic" if ever there was one. 

I read it, along with 1 John, during my morning coffee time. My favorite chapter is called "Das Christentum besteht nicht im Wissen, sondern im Tun" ("Christianity consists not [merely] of knowing but of doing"). Specifically, here are the five areas that Spener was addressing, and my, how they resonate with the needs of modern Christianity/Churchianity!

1) Intensivierung des Bibelstudiums des einzelnen Gemeindegliedes

2) Praktizierung des allgemeinen Priestertums aller durch die verantwortliche Mitarbeit der Laien innerhalb der Gemeinden

3) Verwirklichung eines allein überzeugenden Christentums nicht der Wörter, sondern der Tat

4) Reform des Theologiestudiums im Blick auf den Dienst in der Gemeinde

5) Ausrichtung der Verkündigung auf das Missionarisch-Seelsorgerliche, auf das, was der Christ für Leben und Sterben night entbehren kann

As you can see, this is precisely the message of 1 John in a nutshell, as John himself writes in 1 John 3:18-20 (TLB):

But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him -- how can God's love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. Then we will know for sure, by our actions, that we are on God's side, and our consciences will be clear, even when we stand before the Lord. 

As for Spener, this meant:

Keine Gelegenheit versäumen, dem Nächsten Gutes zu tun. 

This is so clear! A musician who spends all his time tuning his instrument never plays. 

A farmer who continually breaks up his ground never grows a crop. 

It is high time to convert our orthodoxy into orthopraxy. Instead, our churches have gone in for theatrics, running a showboat instead of a lifeboat, staging man-centered performances instead of living out an experience. Along with privilege goes responsibility. Where much is given, much shall be required. If today there is a famine of the hearing of God's word, how much more is there a famine of the doing of it? "You are my friends," says our Lord, "if you do whatever I command you." I like how Luther put it to Zwingli in 1529: "If Scripture told me to eat dung, I would." One cannot hear the truth and remain the same. If we really love others, let us show it by our actions. 

And that is the message of 1 John.