By Sherry Black
A Reading from 1 John 5:1-12
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. 7 There are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. 9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. 10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
John’s first epistle has several major themes, including faith and love. John builds the foundation of love in the first few chapters, and in chapter five he shifts the emphasis to belief, to faith. And his followers are challenged to believe in Jesus Christ, and to affirm that Jesus was God incarnate, God in flesh; it was through water (baptism) and blood (his bodily death) that we are children of God and heirs through the Holy Spirit. They — and we — are called to believe in God who was revealed in his Son, and this confession points to the Church, wherein we learn love, and learn to live in it.
It is by faith, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we are called to love God’s children. And of course, love isn’t an emotion; love is action. I am reminded that love — charity — is a virtue. Thomas Aquinas declared that “Human virtue is a participation in divine power.” Aquinas considers charity to be “the most excellent of virtues” and to encompass both God’s love for us and our love for God and one another. In the Greek world a virtue was considered a matter of excellence, along the lines of “be all that you can be.” While you may perform acts of charity, you may not be considered a “charitable” person in the matter of virtue. It takes a lifetime of practice to become “excellent,” to embody “charity.”
Just the pursuit of love/charity is quite challenge enough for us throughout our lives. I am reminded of the story of The Velveteen Rabbit, about the toy rabbit who became Real. As one of the other toys teaches him,
You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
May we become ever more excellent, ever more Real, by loving and being loved.
The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Mount Kenya South – The Anglican Church of Kenya
St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, River Hills, Wis.