Ask any high school junior who pays attention in chemistry class, and she will tell you red means acid, blue means base. She might even tell you, “It’s easy to just remember blue means base because they both start with B.” Litmus test strips tell bored high schoolers the alkalinity or acidity of substances. These remarkable little strips of paper tell the observers within seconds the substantive makeup of the liquid. In a similar way, John offers a litmus test to determine the substantive makeup of a person’s faith. Chapter 2 offers a moral, social, and doctrinal test of faith. Is your faith legitimate? John would ask, “Do you walk in the light, love your neighbor, and believe Christ is the Messiah?”
1 John 2:1-11 Litmus Test
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
Watch Week Two Day One
Negative to Positive
In last week’s verses John offered negative examples to refute the claims of the false teachers. In this section, he repeats the phrase, “By this we know that. . . ” to offer positive examples of true faith. True faith obeys God’s commands. Again, using hyperbolic contrasts, John states plainly, if you claim to know Him but disobey, that makes you a liar without truth in you. Despite John’s frank and direct claims about obedience, he also recognizes our need for a Savior. John writes to encourage us not to sin, but he also knows that when we fall short we have an advocate in Jesus who satisfied the wrath we deserved. His moral litmus strip reads like this: “All believers continue to sin, and praise God we have an advocate in Jesus. But, if you claim to know the God who is light, do you endeavor to walk in the light? Do you desire to obey His commands? Do you go all DC Talk and belt out ‘I wanna be in the light, as you are in the light?’” If you can say yes to questions like these, your strip shows positive.
Walk in Love
If you go back and ask the bored high schooler how many times she tests her substance, she will tell you twice—once with a red strip and once with a blue strip. Good litmus tests have multiple indicators. John does the same for us. Moving from his moral test of obedience, he transitions into our social test of love. John reminds us of our old, new commandment to love our neighbor. No surprise, he adamantly declares that those who walk in the light with God must love not hate their sisters. Those who hate walk in darkness, but those who love walk in light where the God who is light abides. John’s social litmus strip reads like this, “Since you walk like Christ, do you love your neighbor? Do you give until it hurts? Do you lay down your prejudices, racism, and biases and freely offer grace, mercy, and justice to all those around you?” If you can answer yes or at least endeavor to live like this, your strip shows positive.
Watch a captioned version of today’s video here: https://vimeo.com/295869692
In the next lesson in 1 John we will look at the third litmus test—the doctrinal. But for today, take some time and ask yourself, does my life show that I seek to obey God by loving my neighbors?
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