They had known each other since they were ten years old. They grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, played ball together, spent the night at each other’s house, and did all of the other things that good friends do.
Somewhere in their early to mid-teens, they began to drift apart. Some of it was due to simply growing in different directions, each boy developing his own interests. A large part of it though, had to do with the moral path each was choosing; one was sticking to the right way, and the other was drifting into dangerous territory. I don’t know that it was a deliberate choice on his part. It seemed to be more the influence of the people he was hanging around with. Either way, I guess the results were still the same.
This drift continued through their teenage years and into their early twenties. The two might run into each other or call occasionally, but that was about the extent of their interaction. There just weren’t many points where their lives intersected. The one went off to college, graduated, got a job, and married. The other dropped out of high school, was in and out of work, lived promiscuously, fathered a child, and sold drugs.
One day by the grace of God, he called his friend and said he realized that the road he had chosen was a dead end. He wanted God in his life and needed his friend’s help. Would he baptize him? Of course he would! This past Sunday he was baptized into Jesus.
I was thinking about all of this as I was preparing to preach on born of God, a little phrase that John uses about half a dozen times in 1 John. I was developing the texts that speak of the person who has been born of God doing what is right (2:29), and loving others (4:7, 5:1). Although no one would deny that the two are related, I think it’s safe to say that we don’t generally make a strong connection between the two things. We might think of loving as part of doing what is right, but we probably don’t think of doing what is right as part of loving others. Yet it is. The two young men are a case in point.
We might not connect the actions of the young man who remained on the right path with love, but I think we should. Following after his friend might have been an easy thing to do, but it also would have been selfish. By doing what was right, he remained a true friend to the one who drifted. He remained a light by which his friend could find his way back.
When we live in the light, we do it not just for our Father, ourselves, and our loved ones —we also do it for all those who are in darkness. The only Jesus they might ever see is us. If we step out of the light, their link to life may be lost. This adds a redemptive element to our obedience—we show our love for people by living in the light for them. Our obedience should already be a matter of importance and urgency. We don’t need more reasons to obey God and yet here is another one. May we never underestimate what our Father can do with our obedience and love.
But whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected (1 John 2:5).