Summary: Sometimes we need the balm of Gilead to heal our wounds. John’s ministry to these hurting Christians takes two directions in the text before us.
Balm for Hurting Saints
1. A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, “This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.”
The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, “Which do you want, son?” The boy takes the quarters and leaves.
“What did I tell you?” said the barber. “That kid never learns!”
Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream parlor.
“Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?”
The boy licked his cone and replied:
“Because the day I take the dollar the game is over!”
2. Sometimes we think others are not so bright when we are the ones who are naïve.
3. Church troublemakers often view themselves as superior, and this is certainly true with heretics and divisive people.
4. We are not sure exactly what had happened, but it seems some heretics in the area of Ephesus had gaining a following and led a split in the church there. The faithful were licking their wounds, and John is attempting to promote healing and perspective.
5. Some people who seemed to be true Christians proved to be otherwise. John wanted to encourage the spiritual survivors to stay true.
6. Jeremiah 8:22 discusses an important tree-resin healing salved that came from a region known as Gilead: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?”
Main Idea: Sometimes we need the balm of Gilead to heal our wounds. John’s ministry to these hurting Christians takes two directions in the text before us.
I. Hurting Believers Need A Reminder to Pursue LOVE for Their Brothers and Sisters in Christ (7-11)
Conflict and schisms can make people suspicious, overly-defensive, cynical, or draw into themselves. God calls us to a path that is counter-intuitive, the path of resuming love others, even in the midst of our heartaches.
A. The Old Commandment was a general command to love God and NEIGHBORS.
The Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Leviticus 19:17-18) commanded the people to love God, to love their neighbors, and even to love their enemies. Love is not a New Testament innovation. Difference is focus.
B. The New Commandment specifically emphasizes loving fellow BELIEVERS.
1. This is something believers learned from the beginning – at the start of their Christian lives. We might call this an elementary truth, like l the alphabet.
2. John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
3. Ben Witherington III comments: “What was new…? This love commandment differs from the great commandment to love God and neighbor in that it is directed to Jesus’ followers alone and is meant to create a certain ethos and koinoia [fellowship] among his disciples…This is not about general love for neighbor….Here love is the force that unites a particular community, the followers of Jesus” [Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, p. 472].
4. Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
5. The Kingdom of God, the light, is breaking forth in us and will, one day, result in the return of Jesus to fully set up His Kingdom. Our job is to preview the Kingdom!
C. Loving our bother is consistent with light; hating him with DARKNESS.
1. The Greek used the masculine plurals for people of the same gender or for a group of mixed gender; this applies to “brothers” and “fathers.”
2. The Kingdom of God is breaking forth in us. Like the melting snow of Winter anticipates Spring, so we anticipate the reign of Jesus on earth.
3. Light refers to knowledge and purity.
4. Love and hate – a dualistic style of teaching meant to emphasize a point by appeals to the extreme poles.
5. The term brother is distinct from the term neighbor.
D. Hatred brings spiritual BLINDNESS.
1. When people get lost in caves, one of the worst things is the darkness.
2. When we hate our brothers – and, in some sense, anyone, it is difficult for us to see things clearly. Hatred brings darkness.
3. You see hatred in the example of Haman. Bitter that Mordecai would not bow.
4. I John 2:11, written for any combo of 2 reasons: (1) to prevent unnecessary schisms in the church or (2) to condemn those who have deserted/ split.
5. The real test of your love is in a church conflict. It is easy to begin walking in darkness when your emotions flare or you feel disrespected.