Sunday 15th May 2022

Reading: 1John 2:1-14


‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you’, words from the song in the musical ‘The King and I’. The story of how the governess and the King of Siam get to know one another. John’s writings, be it the gospel or his letters, is centred exactly around that subject matter of how we get to know the Servant King who is Christ Jesus. As once again this morning John is speaking or writing in a fashion that would be readily understandable by those who were following this gnostic way of living. In a world where much thinking and talking centred around knowing things. They spoke a lot about knowing God, about being in God. This knowing God or abiding in God was rich in the importance of the ancient world’s understating of things that go beyond this material world. There is however a marked difference in the way the intellectual Greek world undertook this task and the ways in which people within this still fairly new Christian faith did. We spoke last week about how John used his senses of sight, touch and hearing to underscore his message that Jesus was fully human and divine. How the knowledge of those disciples and early church followers got to know Jesus and therefor know God through their very personal encounters with Jesus. Those to whom John is writing have different criteria for reaching their knowledge. I read the other day of a recorded account of a conversation the great Greek intellectual Socrates had with a young man. ‘How do you know that?’ he asked. ‘Do you know it, or are you guessing?’ added Socrates to which the young man replied, ‘I am guessing.’ ‘Very well, when we are done with guessing, and when we know, shall we talk about it then.’

There was no room in that ancient Greek world for guesswork. The Friday afternoon attitude of ‘if its near enough its good enough, that’ll do’ would simply never be acceptable to them. This ancient world thinking believed that knowledge could lead to God but it did nothing for the moral compass of the soul as it became no more than solution finding to a problem like any other academic subject. It led people nowhere in their understanding God. As time moved on so did some of this thinking and it led to the time prior to our New testament. Finding God had now moved to the emotional experience and the growth of mystery religions and the mystic megs of their day could be found all over the place. This movement would perform passion dramas that were designed to lead the spectator into some form of unity with the divine. They didn’t really alter the story line very often; Some god or other would suffer and die and rise again. There would be great instruction on how to experience this drama before being allowed to attend one of them. All manner of allusion and temptation, underhanded trickery to lure the person into an almost drug induced religious high as it attempted to lead people on an escape away from ordinary life. Living alongside all of this thinking was the Jewish way of knowing God through his revelation, through the created world of nature and his commandments, not too far removed from Christian ways. It was not human intellect that led them to know God but it came from God to his people to know him. Learning from human knowledge or exotic emotional experience was not the way for them. This was the world that John was addressing. His writing is to the young church. To know God, to experience God, is to know Christ and his love. No intellectual, academic train of thought can lead you there, it will not lead you to be able to say, ‘I know God’.

There are ethical and moral decisions that need to go with this understanding. No induced emotional façade can lead you there, it will not lead you to be able to say, ‘I am in God and God is in me.’ There are commandments and integrity that need to go with this understanding. John is uncompromising in his approach. It is not about getting to know about God it is about getting to know God and there is a very marked difference between these two things. Obedience to God is the way of knowing him. A relationship with Christ is the way of experiencing God fully. None of this rules out the need for intellectual effort and understanding, none of this means we ought not to become emotional in our service of Christ, our experience of God is indeed a highly charged, highly emotional part of our journey with him through this life. In verses five and six where John writes, ‘But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.’ There is a moral compass that needs to be set on a proper course.

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