I love the word “Beloved.” It’s the kind of word that bears an “antique” feel of sophistication and dignity, as well as expressing a sense of connection and intimacy that keeps it from being “stuffy” or “arrogant.” To be considered “beloved” by someone else is the heart’s cry of most humans! I want to be “beloved” and to have a “beloved.” I bet you do too.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in 1 John 3:21-24; 4:1-11:
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already. Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
St. John calls his spiritual children “beloved” three times in this passage and each time he unveils three powerful insights into just what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
First, John’s “beloved” don’t just talk about love, they live it! John makes it clear that a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, has a heart that does not condemn the person. This person loves others and embraces the “commandment” to “believe in the name of Jesus Christ.” What does that mean? Well, Jesus means “savior” and Christ means “anointed one” so to believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to believe and fully embrace the Son of God as your needed Savior and the One Whom the Father promised our mother Eve would come and crush the head of that old “serpent!”
Next, John’s “beloved” are discerning and able to tell the difference between truth and error. Of course that implies that these “beloved” have become so intimate with truth (by the way, truth is a Person) that the counterfeit of truth always stands out like a sore thumb! And this ability to discern flows from the consistent love that these “beloved” have for Jesus Christ. And this intimacy means that those who are “beloved” are always able to overcome the tug of this world towards the “spirit of error.”
Finally, John’s “beloved” prove they are “beloved” by their focus on God’s love. These followers of Jesus understand that their ability to love one another flows from their paramount choice to stay constantly aware that God loved them first! So, their love is the natural reaction to this foundational understanding of reality. Since God loved His world so much that He sent His only begotten Son to destroy death by death, we, if we really believe this, have only one reaction that is authentic: we love one another like God has loved us!
Today, love is of God and every one that loves is clearly “born of God and knows God.” So, are you “born of God” and “know God?” We have every spiritual tool we need to become “beloved” just waiting for our will to desire this love above all other desires. When you’re ready (are you ready), you really can be Orthodox on Purpose and become “beloved!”