When the first Christians said Jesus was the “son of god,” they meant that Caesar was not.

Today’s Bible reading

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. — I John 4:13-16a

More thoughts for meditation

This week we’re trying to slow down, focus on one passage of Scripture, and let God root us once again in her love for us. Our passage for the week is I John 4:7-21. You’re invited to read the full passage each day this week, but we’re going to take it slow, focusing on just a few verses each day. Today our focus is on verses 13-16a. Recall that back in I John 4:7-8, we were reminded that God is love, and that when we love, we reveal that we know God and that we are born of God, that we are God’s children. Likewise, in verses 9 and 10, the focus was on how God shows us who she is- by sending Jesus so that we can live through him as we participate in God’s love. This is how God saves us from everything that is not love, from everything that is not God. Yesterday, in verses 11-12, we saw how the loving community that exists amongst God’s self overflows onto creation, including humanity, and is fulfilled as we participate in that community by loving one another. 

In today’s verses we see how we might participate in the “divine dance” of the love among Father, Son, and Spirit, which is at work in us. We receive the gift of the Spirit as evidence of the Father’s life in us and our life in the Father. Out of this, we testify that the Father sent the Son to save the world. So perhaps you can see this movement, this dance, this flow of energy and love as the Spirit is given to us, and then we point to the Father by proclaiming the good news about the Son. In verse 15, then, there’s another “if” that some Christians tend to get hung up on: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” Remember that this week we are working not to approach Scripture as if we are “subjects” attempting to achieve mastery over an “object” as we interpret it. Instead, our aim is to immerse ourselves in this one longer passage, like scuba divers plumbing the depths of the ocean of God’s love.  

Bearing that in mind, it is perhaps easier to see how the English language mechanics of dependent clauses and the like might trip us up. When, instead, we’re immersed in God’s love made complete in our love for one another, we can come at this the other way round. God’s loving community lives in us and is found in our loving community with one another; so then, it is natural that out of that immersive experience of being that we would acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, our rightful King and Lord and the only one worthy of such titles. Earlier in the week we talked about the sun shining not because it ought to but because that’s what suns do. Likewise, we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God simply because that’s what we who live in God, and in whom God lives, do. “And so,” of course “we know and rely on the love God has for us,” as today’s part of our longer passage ends.

Suggestions for action

Keep trying this breath prayer that we’ll practice this week:

Inhale: God, you are love. 

Exhale: When I love, I know that I’m yours.

Try to meditate using this breath prayer for five minutes or so. Then take your time and read our passage for today. If you have time, re-read verses 7-12 and keep going all the way to verse 21. If you’re short on time, just read verses 13-16a. Then take another five minutes and meditate again using the breath prayer above. As you end, ask God to make you aware of the gift of the Spirit in a new way. The Spirit is our Comforter. Receive the comfort God has for you as a tangible reminder of your life in God and God’s life in you. Pray about who you might share this life and love with, to whom you might acknowledge that Jesus is your ruler, not any president, king, or other power. Rely on God’s love as you speak this truth.