1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.
3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
(1 John 3:1-3, NASB).
Notice that between v.1 and v.3, we start with a command (See how great a love) and end with an observation (everyone who has this hope purifies himself). If we observe the text closely, we see that purifying ourselves is not a command. We are not to fixate on purifying ourselves, but on the object of our hope. We are to observe the Father’s great love for us. When we are fixated and obsessed with the Father’s great love for us, we purify ourselves. We do not purify ourselves in order to gain the Father’s love, this is backwards. We fixate on the Father’s love for us, and our identity as privileged children, and our purification flows from this.
We are asked to “see”, to observe, to look at, to apprehend, to consider, the love which the Father has bestowed upon us. Let’s be clear – seeing the Father’s love for us is what we are being asked to do. It is the only thing in this passage that we are being asked to do. We want to make the command something more tangible, more clearly indicative of purification. We want to tell people to stop buying those expensive french fries so we can support the church’s mission. We want accountability for internet porn or overeating or more commitment to the poor and homeless or prison ministries or whatever. It seems so lame to tell someone to “see how great a love the Father has for us.” However, it is not lame! It is the true root of purification!
Now, am I saying that we don’t exert some effort to purify ourselves? That if we hope in the right thing, that our purification happens by magic? The scripture doesn’t really say that here does it? What it does imply is that the inspiration or root of our purification makes a difference. Suppose I say to my son, “you are fat and you need to get some exercise, get your lazy rump out there and do something active!” How effective in the long haul will that be? If I stop saying that, does it mean I condone obesity and laziness and inactivity? It’s all simply a wrongheaded approach. If my son sees some video footage of Michael Jordan playing basketball, and starts watching some other basketball stars, and says, “I want to learn to play like that!” – then he is inspired by what he could become. He goes out daily and disciplines himself and works hard at it. He gets a taste of success and some encouragement, and he devotes himself even more to it. Which approach will likely work to get him to lose weight, exercise, and get active? The hope which inspires us is all-important in seeing us actually succeed at sustained transformation.
So we are to see what a great love the Father has for us! The distinctive thing we are to observe about this love is that God has become, not our judge, but our Father. We are not sinning supplicants, but His children. We are beloved offspring, young and dependent and ignorant and beautiful in His eyes. We are not just CALLED children of God with words; such we are! There is an identity change, we are newly born as different creatures. Our central identical self is altered. Such we ARE.
I have always heard, my whole life, about Christian maturity. This may or may not be a true and valid concept. I remain skeptical that there is such a thing, and I remain skeptical that it would be impossible to ever grow in a substantial way in our spirituality. No matter what, compared to what we will become, even at our most “mature”, we are still children. It has not appeared as yet what we shall be.
Notice that what we shall be, which has not been observed by anyone because it has not appeared, is something incredible! It is something which, if you could catch a glimpse of it, would capture your hope so completely that you would obsess over it to the point of being useless. Maybe that is why it hasn’t yet appeared.
13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 1:13, NASB).