Love and Idols

The beautiful letter of 1 John has an odd ending.

I say the letter is beautiful because 1 John has such stunning passages and lines, among them the awe-inspiring “God is love.”

There’s so much about love in the letter that you’d think the ending would be this:

Little children, love one another.

But that’s not the final line. The final line is:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

This last exhortation — “keep yourselves from idols” — seems to come out of the blue. There’s not a whole lot of talk about idol worship in the book.

It might seem that the issues of idols and love don’t go together, but in the Christian imagination, they do. Love is a matter of worship. Our capacity to love is dependent upon the right ordering of our hearts. We don’t love each other well when we’re worshiping idols. A person can’t love their family well if they worship work. Addicts can’t love well in the grip of their addiction. We can’t love well if we’re vain, prideful, and self-absorbed. Love requires rejecting these idols.

“Little children, love one another” and “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” go hand in hand.

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