Daily Devotional for Wednesday, September 30, 2020 from Jonathan Moelker
1 John 3:11-1611 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
What does it mean to have eternal life? We usually think of eternal life as something that comes later, after we die. But this text says something different. It says that we can have eternal life inside of us. And it all comes down to love.
Love is one of the strange words in the Bible. As you might have heard before, the Greek language has several different words to refer to different kinds of love, but almost every time there is a word for love in our New Testament, it is the same word, “ἀγαπάω”. This is actually an unusual word in the Greek vocabulary, other forms of love were much more common. We don’t notice this, because the word it translates to in English, “love” is a very common word, but the Greek word “ἀγαπάω” was hardly ever used outside of our Bibles.
These extreme calls for love, found throughout the Gospels, the letters of Paul and the other Epistles, through to Revelation are strange. For the Christians, there is something different in how they talk about love. It is the very nature of their existence. Before any ritual, there is love. The mark of eternal life is love.
Now, today is Columbus Day. Christopher Columbus was a Christian, who wrote of his desire to evangelize the inhabitants of the new lands he discovered. Instead, he killed and enslaved them. For him, seeing someone as God’s own did not preclude his own desire to horrifically oppress them. This is far from the only point in history where Christians have miserably failed to live up to the love that brings us from death to life. Columbus Day was first celebrated as a national holiday in response to the lynching of Italian Americans by the KKK. This hate group, supposedly ensuring the sanctity of their Protestant faith, terrorized African-Americans, Jews, Catholics, and foreigners. Once again, there was no love.
Many no longer celebrate Columbus Day. It’s difficult to celebrate the beginning of the European colonization of the Americas, when it began with such pain. We know that the lack of love continued, that first the American Indians, then the Africans, would be enslaved. The Italians and Irish and Polish and Jewish would all be excluded, often killed for their existence as well. Our homeland was settled without love. Many who claimed to be spreading Christianity brought no love, basing their evangelism on hate.
These failures to love are important to remember. It’s easy to glorify our history, calling ourselves a “Christian Nation”. When we call the hate of the past Christian, we carry that hate into today. But the Gospel is clear: whoever does not love abides in death. For Christians, the mark of eternal life is love.
But we are not tied down to our history. We are not required to repeat it. One of the main reasons we study history is to learn from it. And in Christ, we are given new strength to love in absolutely remarkable ways.
Our past is a history of failure to love.
Our generational pasts are full of hurt and pain.
We have hurt others in our personal pasts too.
Yet with each day you see us as new creations in Christ.
Let us start new, today, with love.