Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 10:11-21; 1 John 2:1-6; Job 7; Ezekiel 7-9
In the first chapter of his letter, John states that those who claim to not have a sin nature are deceived (1 John 1:8) and those who claim they never sin make God out to be a liar (v. 10). Those who realise they sin and have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for sin have an advocate who defends us before the Father. Our forgiveness is based on Jesus’s work. Through this, we come to know him and are secure in our relationship with him.
John must have realised that this could lead to an easy-going attitude towards sin and ethics. If we are forgiven, does it really matter how we live? Does God not accept us just the way we are, flaws and all? He does, but John wants his listeners to commit to not sinning (1 John 2:1). As we get to know God better we should want to do what he commands. John makes it very clear: If we claim to know God and do not obey him, we are liars. We should earnestly desire to live as Jesus lived (1 John 2:6). One example of this is when Jesus describes himself as a good shepherd. His Father commanded him to lay down his life for others (John 10:18). He thinks about this in terms of what a good shepherd would do for his flock. He chooses of his own accord to lay down his life for others. They thereby recognise the sort of love he has for them, and they come to know and trust him.
If we obey God, his love is made complete within us and the truth is in us (1 John 2:5). It does not follow that if we disobey God we do not know him; that if we sin, we are not true believers. The argument here does not flow equally in both directions. If we have come to know God, the logical and truthful response should be to choose to follow and obey him. If we don’t obey him, we are not being logical or truthful, but this does not mean that our relationship with him does not exist; it is not as good as it could be. If a shepherd sees a wolf coming towards his sheep and runs away, he acts like a hired hand, not a good shepherd. He does not act according to his identity, and there are consequences for those under his care. Likewise, a Christian who does not obey God is not living according to his identity as a loved child of God – and there are consequences for others under his care. They will not receive the love and protection that God wants to provide through those who do obey him.
Knowing God is an on-going relationship based on love and obedience. We know his love and this should lead to obedience. We know what this involves practically by knowing his Word, including his commands. John was arguing against those who denied the importance of behaviour and ethics; all that mattered was knowledge and enlightenment. Some today claim that everyone is basically ‘good’; when we look within we enlighten ourselves as to how we should live. Obedience to any authority is seen as coercive and repressive. John rejects this approach, claiming we need a superhuman authority to enlighten us about what is right and wrong. When we truly know God, we will see that his ways are best both for us and others, and for our relationship with him.