Reading Time: 4 mins

1 John 5:13-21: The Front Porch of Our Father’s Home

Reading Time: 4 mins

From the beginning to the end of his letter, John really wants one thing: for us to be in Jesus.

In the substructure of our world, deep in the dark corridors of hell, there is a room full of scribal devils whose one job is this: to make up words.

Linguistic Lucifers, we might call them. Dictionary devils.

It is to their diabolical minds that we owe the rhetoric of racism, the sterile descriptions of what abortionists do to living babies in the womb, the political slang of totalitarian states. They make up words to mask evil and sugarcoat lies.

Also on their resumé are words that sound true and logical and obvious, but when merely touched, burst into nothing more than smoke and vapor. One of their most successful creations of this variety is the word “secular.”

In the myriad of ways in which I see that word used, I hear posited a fundamental impossibility: that there are spaces in this world from which religion is excluded. The “No Religion Allowed” cubicles of politics, education, work, entertainment, and more. “Sure,” they say, “religion is fine inside the temple or mosque or church, but it is entirely alien to these secular arenas of life.”

I’ve got a word for that: Hogwash.

In a world suffused with the glory of God, polluted with legions of demons, and peopled by men and women who bear the imprint of the divine image, a “secular sphere” is as possible as a sea void of water or a fire absent flames. “Religious humans” is another way of saying “humans.”

We live in a world that is 100% religious in every way. There is no minuscule element of existence that is non-religious. In our divinely saturated cosmos, the only question is this: which God or gods or dark demonic forces hold sway over our hearts, inform our understanding of the purpose of life, guide our morality, and provide our methods of forgiveness in these inescapably religious lives.

Mercy: Our Constant Need

“We know that we are from God, and the world lies in the power of the evil one.” So writes St. John (1 John 5:19).

If the whole world sways to the music of the evil one, we would do well to let the holy dance of prayer be ever on our lips and hearts. John tells us that “we know that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us,” and that “we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

In other words, we have a God with ears.

So we see a friend sinning and pray for him (1 John 5:16). That’s one example that John gives. And it’s a beautiful one. Unlike the Pharisee who stuck out his chest and boasted—boasted!—to God that he was not “like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11), we see a friend and co-opt the prayer of the tax collector himself. We pray, “God, be merciful to my friend, and to me, for we are both sinners.”

Mercy is our constant need so let mercy be our constant request.

We are prone to make prayer more complicated than it needs to be. If the whole world lies in the power of the evil one, then we all lie in need of divine mercy. So pray for mercy.

When you pass a coworker, pray in your heart, “Lord, have mercy on her.” Last week I saw a father and son walk into the gym together and I prayed, “Lord have mercy upon them.” When I see a sad face, a troubled smile, a heavy silence weighing upon someone, I ask the Lord to shower them with mercy. Family? Yes. Friends? Yes. Strangers? Yes.

Mercy is our constant need so let mercy be our constant request.

Life on the Front Porch

This world is what George MacDonald delightfully named, “the front porch of our Father’s home.”

It’s often very dark on this porch. That’s what we would expect since the world is under the sway of dark forces.

It’s also very lonely. In the darkness, we feel isolated, like we’re the only one feeling “this pain” or “that heartache.”

Clothed with the mercy of Jesus and filled with his love, we live on this porch with a keen perception of reality. John says Christians have “understanding” or know “him who is true” (1 John 5:20). Part of that understanding or knowing-him-who-is-true is also having his light to bring some illumination to this “front porch.”

That light takes the form of love. We love others who are caught in the web of religious lies that crisscross this porch. We speak the truth to them in love, beckoning them to flee from idols and to come to Christ who is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20-21).

That light takes the form of wisdom. With ears full of the wise words of God, we filter out the half-lies and full-deceptions of the father of lies—and his minions—clinging to the ancient truths.

In him, we know that we will move from the front porch into the Father’s resurrection mansion.

Truths such as this: this front porch, on which we spend 10 or 21 or 70 or 90 years, is a blink in eternity’s eye. In the short lives we have, let us know and rest in Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life. In him, we know that we will move from the front porch into the Father’s resurrection mansion.

Truths such as this: though we sin in this life, when we are in Jesus, all our sins are and will remain forgiven, drowned in the sea of his cruciform suffering.

And truths such as this: to find human flourishing, true joy, lasting peace, and a clear way forward through a world awash in false religious thinking, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, be baptized, and find in the Father’s Son the answer to all our deepest longings and needs.

Little Children

From the beginning to the end of his letter, John really wants one thing: for us to be in Jesus. To walk in his light. To be filled with his life. To have fellowship with the Father through his incarnate Son.

Every other issue and question and problem comes back to Christ. He is the center around which everything revolves. All is bound up in him for he is the full revelation of who God is and what God thinks of us.

We are the Father’s children. Brothers and sisters in Jesus. We are walking through this passing world, ready to leave the front porch, and step inside. There, awaiting us, is our Father and our Savior.

So, little children, keep yourselves from idols. Be filled to the full by the true God, Jesus Christ, our Life, Love, and Lord. Amen.