For the past few days I’ve been reading in the book of 1 John. Whenever I read a book I like to know as much background information as possible. I’ll research the author, the time period, the people it was written to, etc. In this case, I find it particularly interesting that 1-3 John makes no mention of who wrote it. Similarly, the gospel of John doesn’t make mention of his name, he just referred to himself as “the disciple who Jesus loves”.
One thing we do know is that John was one of the “Sons of Thunder”, which in my opinion, indicates pride. Thunder is loud and boisterous. You know when it’s thundering outside. You stop and notice it. I feel like it was probably the same with John and his brother, James. They were probably little hellions before they met Christ. Then everything changed.
Throughout the gospels you can see glimpses of John’s pride jumping out. Matthew 20 records one such story. Jesus had just finished prophesying about his death when James and John’s mom came up to Jesus telling him (not asking) that her two sons will sit on either side of him in heaven. What an audacious request! Although their mom was the one who approached Jesus, I imagine that James and John were the ones that asked her to do so. John wanted to be known. He wanted to be important. He wanted to have authority. He wanted to be famous.
His character changed after he spent time with Jesus. The gospel of John focuses heavily on the divinity of God. 1 John contrasts the light of God with the darkness of the world and discusses the love of God. This is a huge difference from the John that we saw in Matthew 20. He had realized who God really is, which caused him to humble himself. He understood that love cannot exist with things like pride and competition. He had learned the difference between the light of God and the darkness of his flesh. This is a real-life example of the theological word “sanctification”, which just means the process of becoming more like Christ.
Although John still hadn’t figured everything out, he had grown during those years spent with Jesus, and continued to grow after he began his ministry. I find this incredibly comforting. Despite the fact that I’m not where I want to be, I’m not where I used to be. I’ve grown and matured since I met Christ. I don’t struggle with the some of the same things that I dealt with when I first accepted Christ.
Whenever you start to feel discouraged about yourself, just look back at where you came from. Although you may not be where you want to be, you’re not where you used to be. When (not if) you mess up, don’t beat yourself up about it. All you need to do is pick yourself up, repent, and continue walking toward God. And remember 1 John 1:9 that says:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”