Meditations in 1 John : 19 : Young Men
1 John 2:13,14 I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one…..I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
So we have thought a little about children and then about fathers, and so now we come to the third group in these strange verses in John’s letter, young men. Before we get to the two verses themselves, what do we know about young men? Let’s put aside some of the features of modern Western males and just consider them worldwide. What do we tend to see? We see young people pushing boundaries. They have life and vitality and are bursting to be themselves, unique individuals not in the mould of their parents. They dare things others would not dare. They dream dreams that have not yet been tempered by life. They have enormous optimism and self-confidence, and these days they often travel the globe in search of adventure. They are also often compassionate and caring and get angry over lacks of justice. The want to change the world!
So let’s look at what John says; “I write to you, young men.” He could have written to girls, to husbands, to wives and so on, i.e. anyone else, but he chooses young men in the church (it is a letter to believers probably read out in church congregations). Imagine them sitting among the larger crowd as a local leader reads out John’s letter. It’s a letter for adults and then, suddenly, no it’s not, it’s for us! What is he saying about us? “We have overcome the evil one”.
So what does that mean and why does he say it to young men? Hasn’t every believer actually overcome the evil one (Satan) when we turned to Christ and God “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son.”? (Col 1:13) Yes, but perhaps sometimes the battle to overcome doubts, fears etc., is greater in some to come through to Christ than it is in others. Young people, and especially young men are a classic example. We said the young man naturally has self confidence and so much more that they are easy prey for Satan to play on all those things and keep them from coming to Christ. But these young men in the church have overcome his wiles and his temptations and have come through to a place of surrender to Christ, despite all else they naturally feel.
It is interesting to observe different people in different groups or professions or whatever else it may be, battle through the ways of the world and the wiles of the enemy to come to faith and what is especially interesting is that so often those who have come out of certain backgrounds are particularly strong in their faith once they have broken through. Oh yes, they were still sinners who needed the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, but nevertheless there are certain people who once they have come through appear to be more all-out for God. Perhaps this is the reason that John now says to these young men, “I write to you because you are strong.” For a young man to break free from his culture and his friends and all his natural instincts, and surrender his life to Christ, it does require a certain sort of determination. This is the human aspect of the human plus divine parts of the equation that bring about salvation.
The apostle Paul might be an example of this. He had been a young man who was all-out for God in a religious way and had everything going for him religiously, but then he had his encounter with Jesus and was then as equally all out for God as a committed Christian – and was he committed! Read 2 Cor 11:23-27 to see this!
These young men are commendable, and if we have them in our midst we need to commend and encourage them. “You are strong.” Yes of course they are; they had to be to have overcome the world and to now stand for Christ. “The word of God lives in you.” Yes it does; yes he does! The word of God and the Spirit of Jesus living in them makes them strong. I’m sure John, if he had been with them, would have balanced it with, be careful not to get over confident: “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” (1 Cor 10:12,13) but we don’t have to dot every I and cross every T; we can just be encouraging and John is being that for these young men. Do we do that for our young men or do we worry about their vulnerability all the time? Encourage them, bless them!