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Get a Life!

“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12)

Hi Fighter,

I remember when I was at university in the early 1980’s, an Evangelical Christian mission was held on campus, and they had this piece of Scripture from the first letter of Saint John (chapter 5, verse12) posted up on banners everywhere – “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”.

The verse has stayed with me ever since, though I wish I had a better reason. The point the crusaders were making was that there are two types of people in this world – those who have life because they are believers, and those who have no belief and hence, no life! That was their point. The question is, ‘was it John’s point?’

While it’s tempting to treat this one-liner from Saint John as a piece of stand-alone wisdom, it’s actually part of a lengthy letter and needs to be read in context for, as they taught me in seminary, ‘a text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext.’

1 John 5:13 (the following verse) says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” John is writing to those who believe. He’s not addressing ‘unbelievers’ at all, and he’s writing to assure these believers that they really do have eternal life through their faith in the Son of God, even if they don’t feel particularly spiritual or holy.

I’ve spent much of my life working with people on the edge – people struggling with substance-abuse problems or addictions of other kinds, people who frequently find themselves in prison or in mental-health facilities – and one thing I’ve found that all of us who struggle have in common is that none of us have a lot of confidence in ourselves, nor a lot of hope for the future. I can see Saint John here taking each of us by the hand and saying, “Hey, if you have the Son of God, you have eternal life! That’s enough. You’ve made it! The Son is all you need.”

I’m not meaning to depict John as one of those ‘power of positive thinking’ gurus, saying, ‘we are all winnners’! That’s not his point. His point is that if you have the Son, you have enough. You are a child of God. You are loved. You have eternal life. Be at peace.

I don’t think John would have approved of all those banners displayed across the University with that snippet from his letter. Indeed, I think he would have told the banner-makers that if they wanted to quote him, they might consider substituting the previous verse – 1 John 5:11 – “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son”. Better still, they could have added a few more verses since, as we say, ‘a text without a context is ’ well, you know how It goes.

I wonder if I could turn that into a banner?

P.S. My reflection today was also given as an audio broadcast in this week’s Pulpit Fiction podcast. Click here if you’d like to hear my contribution in that context. 

Our Sunday Eucharist

We had a really powerful Sunday Eucharist last weekend. I always look forward to having our Islamic brother, Tom Toby, on the panel with me, and we got into a very significant discussion about forgiveness this week where Tom felt that Christians and Muslims may hold different beliefs. I’m still not sure about that but I do think the discussion was quite profound. Indeed, I recommend it to you.

I’ve pasted a couple of shorts (less than 60 seconds each) below that captures some key moments of our discussion. If you want the complete dialogue, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you’ll find the recording of the full broadcast (along with more snippets).

This Sunday is Mothers’ Day so I appreciate that it might be difficult for some of you to join me. Even so, I’m looking forward to having two wonderful brothers with me this Sunday – Rob Gilland and Father Mark Battison – though Rob has told me that he’s going to have to dash off after our Bible Banter to be with his mother. If you too can squeeze us in, we’ll be streaming from midday at and on Facebook , YouTubeTwitterLinkedIn and Streamyard. I do hope to be able to share this Eucharist with you. 😊

Let me work your corner

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What’s On?

Our boxing team at Legends Gym

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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