Does God want Children, or an Army?

Assyrian Reliefs
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/elissacorsini/1056688065/">Elissa SCA</a>

1 John 5:1-5

Everyone who embraces Jesus as the chosen one is a child of God.

Everyone who loves the parent loves the child. So we know that we love the children of God by loving and obeying God. We love God by obeying God’s orders – which is not so hard. Whoever is God’s child vanquishes the world. Which is to say, our affirmation of Jesus vanquishes the world. Who, but those who embrace Jesus as God’s child, will vanquish the world?

For all John’s talk of love, this passage has a decidedly unloving tone. Us against the world, and we will be victorious. Some will make the case that the meaning here is spiritual. It’s not. It’s militant. The Greek all but invokes Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, even as it claims to kinship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. That’s a serious problem.

The second problem in this passage is that it’s logic is completely flawed: loving the parent doesn’t mean squat about one’s attitude toward the child. I can think of instances in which the parents are perfectly lovely people, but I’d rather not be around their children. You can probably think of some, too. And it applies in the other direction as well. You’re not guaranteed to like the parents just because you like their kids.

If anything, this passage is a reminder of how easily devotion can cross the line into fanaticism. Devotion, at its best, is a deep commitment to a cause or person, or even a religion. Fanaticism is that perversion of devotion that narrows everything into black and white, for and against, us and them, (capital-T) Truth and blasphemy. Devotion seeks to deepen and build and bind together. Fanaticism flattens, consumes, and divides. Devotion yearns to see more clearly. Fanaticism blinds and confuses.

You can see where this is going. The quest for love is one thing. The quest for victory is quite another.