As He Is, So Are We
1 John 4:16b ¶ God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
1John 4:17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. (NRSV)
17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. (NIV)
John brings deep truths to us in simple words. “God is love.” We bring God’s nature down to what seems to be a very simplistic idea, that God is love. However, the idea may seem simple, but it is not simplistic. God is love in the fact that the very nature of God is holy love. Everything about God oozes with holy love and this nature is revealed through the mutual indwelling and love in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are invited to abide in fellowship with God, and hence to be constrained by love. God in us and we in God, held there by the holy love that draws us ever closer to the One we love.
The goal for humanity is to become like Christ, to be filled to the full with his nature. Love comes to completion or perfection in us when we fulfill the purpose for which we have been created. That purpose is to be like Christ; we are to be the likeness of Christ in the world. As the NRSV charges us, “as he is, so are we in this world.” We are transformed into living likenesses of Christ — this is the goal. This is why we may come to understand that on the day of judgement we need not worry, if “in this world we are like Jesus.”
An earthly parent has no trouble identifying their own children. I can be in a crowd and I can tell you which two are my daughters. I don’t even have to see their faces, I can tell by the way they carry themselves, the way they stand, the way they move their hands, the way they laugh and talk. These are my children!
God knows who his children are as well because they bear the family resemblance — holy love.
What would it truly mean if “in this world we [were] like Jesus?” The Church of the Nazarene’s mission statement is, “Making Christlike Disciples in the Nations.” This is what John is telling us in this Epistle. The goal is to be like Christ in the world. We are supposed to look like Jesus. This is a high bar or standard and this is the standard to which we are being called in discipleship.
This week I’ve had the privilege of teaching at class on the NTS campus. In discussion with the students yesterday we were talking about the role of the church in discipleship. While we may have a particular mission statement, the concern is how we are putting this into action. All across the Nazarene denomination we have had signs in our churches that say, “Called Unto Holiness.” In a nutshell this is placing before us the challenge to become filled with God’s holy love — to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ in this world.
I’m afraid that we may have been trying to find short-cuts along the way, easy ways of discipleship. There is no easy way of discipleship — it requires taking up our cross on a daily basis and following Jesus. It requires time in his holy presence. It requires submission to the will of the Father and empowerment from the Holy Spirit. It requires going into the world to be Jesus in the world.
The challenge is great and the bar has been set high. “As he is, so are we in this world.” May we go and be Jesus to our world.
Lord, what a challenge. Please abide in me so that I can be like you. Amen.