“And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (I John 3:23).
I’m a country boy, for the most part, I process the world around me on a very basic level, according to the commonsense values that I was taught as a child. I have often identified with the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 131:1, “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and marvelous for me.”
Even in the matters of my Christian faith, when I get a little high and mighty in my theological musings and prognostications, I am brought back to the basics of the Christian faith as stated in the verse above. This verse came up in our community group study of the First Letter of John. And in my country boy mind, I truly believe that this verse is the hinge upon which all true Christianity swings.
As I have noted before, I was raised in Baptist home and educated in a Lutheran grade school. The neighbors who surrounded us were mostly church-going people, the churches represented in our neighborhood were the ones already mentioned as well as Mennonite, Nazarene, Wesleyan, and Pentecostal. When our church did not have services on a given Sunday or Wednesday night, our family was found in worship and fellowship at one of these churches. Each of them was marked by the distinctives of the various denominations, but they all would have fully embraced I John 3:23. Therefore, though we could recognize the distinctives for what they were, our true fellowship was rooted in the words, “And this is His commandment…”
I have spent my entire forty-five years of pastoral ministry in community churches that have been made up of individuals who represent many denominational backgrounds. I believe that among the reasons that God has blessed my life as a pastor is that I have endeavored to major on the majors, and left the minors, the prereferral areas of the faith, up to an individual’s personal interpretation, trusting the Holy Spirit to counsel and teach in these areas.
I John 3:23 fits very well with the 1st and 2nd Great Commandments. First, love the Lord God with all your heart, your mind, and strength. Second, love your neighbor as you love yourself. Paul reiterates this theme in his first letter to Timothy, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Timothy 1:5).
These simple but powerful words of instruction, remind of a like passage found in the Old Testament. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Let’s not dismiss these passages for they are introduced with powerful admonitions that call us to obey. This is His commandment! What does the Lord Require of You? The goal of our instruction is…! These are all followed by simple admonitions that even a child can understand. And O how I need these, for these are the truths that are indeed the anchor of my faith.