In our last blog we looked at John’s words concerning children and older people, so now we come to young adults and then all Christians of any age or background.
John writes now to young adults, acknowledging that they are in the prime of life. At this stage of life many are determined to make a success of everything. Ambition in their careers and whole-hearted enjoyment of their social life is matched for true Christians by dedicated commitment in their discipleship of Christ. So John twice observes that they “have overcome evil/the evil one” (2.13/14).
At the outset of adulthood temptations to immorality and evil of every sort abound. Life-determining choices face them as they sort out what course they will follow for the rest of their life. Who will they marry? What circles will they adopt for their friendships and companionships? What studies and training will they work at? What career will they follow and how ambitious do they want to be in their work? Ethical and moral issues will also face them. The plethora of such battles all stand under the great choice of whether they will commit their lives to following the Lord or give way to the temptations of the world. Graciously John assumes that the young adults he is addressing have made the decision to follow the Lord whole-heartedly.
So John asserts that these young Christian adults have faced the question of whether to follow the Lord’s commands or to give way to sin and evil. Immorality and moral compromise will surely have tempted them, but they have won the battle and overcome evil. How much our society today needs such disciplined young adults! The pressures of so-called ‘freedom’ and ‘inclusivity’ can so easily undermine our obedience to Christ and God’s word in the Bible.
All sin and lack of moral purity stems ultimately from ‘the evil one’, Satan himself. So John’s word “evil” can also mean ‘the evil one’. It is Satan himself who seeks to undermine any consecrated discipleship of the Lord. He hates it when people earnestly follow the Lord’s will and commands. Total commitment to Christ and the Heavenly Father is anathema to Satan and he therefore makes it extremely difficult in our contemporary society with its lack of sure truth and definite moral standards.
In this present letter John merely states that these young adults “have overcome evil/the evil one”. But he goes on to elaborate on this statement in 2.14. In overcoming evil they show that they “are strong, and the word of God abides in you”. Facing all the temptations and pressures of the world around them, they needed to be strong. And such strength cannot be separated from the assurance that they have the biblical word of God living in them. In our day we note a fearful lack of disciplined reading and study of the Bible. But, if young adults today are to overcome evil and the evil one, they need their very mind and thinking to be formed by God’s word in the Bible. Only through good knowledge of the Bible can they make right decisions with godly moral standards. May it be true of the young adults in our churches today that they “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor.2.16)!
The World or the Father?
John presents us with a clear choice – to love the world or to love our heavenly Father. At first he relates this challenge to love the Father only to the young adults, but then this is quickly widened to include “if anyone . . .” (2.15). All of us need to ask ourselves what comes first in our lives and what therefore has priority. Many consider their careers and their financial position as more important than anything else. For the sake of success in their work and a rise in their salary they may not only neglect their families, but also sacrifice their commitment to God and his church. In today’s world John’s emphasis on “those things in the world” stands strongly against materialistic consumerism. How many gain their pleasure and self-esteem through owning smart cars or buying yet more of the latest fashion clothes! Even Christians can easily give way to the pressures of brilliant advertising which assures us that we ‘need’ and ‘deserve’ something. Contemporary insecurities can open the younger generations particularly to anything related to their image – cosmetics, hair sprays etc. John calls such things “the cravings of the flesh, the desire of the eyes and the boasting of our being” (2.16).
John sees the world and what is of the world through the grid of eternity. “The world and its desires pass away, but those who do the will of God abide into eternity” (2.17). Why give priority to what is ephemeral, when we have the possibility of eternity with the Father through Jesus Christ? So to us all today the choice stands starkly before us – does God have priority in all our choices, in our use of our time and money, in our choice of work and career, in our family life and relationships etc?