Meditations in 1 John : 47 : Dear Children
1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
There is often a danger in Christian circles, especially among younger Christians for fear to creep in, and especially when the talk is of the enemy or of enemy warfare or of opposition and persecution. It is very easy to get an unbalanced picture which Satan then plays on to create fear within us which them immobilises us. John started off what we have as chapter 4 with warnings about wrong spirits and antichrists. He’s going to say some more about them in a moment but for this verse he establishes our base or our foundation, the thing which should hold us steady in the face of any wrong thoughts.
But it’s another one of those what seem almost gentle times when he addresses us as “dear children” and it seems he does it because he feels particularly protective over us in some particular way and feels we are precious to him. We said before that there are nine times in this letter that he addresses us like this.
In the first he saw us as newly created, unblemished believers and feeling protective over us, he didn’t want us to fall into sin: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin” (2:1)
In the second one he felt protective over us because he didn’t want us to fall into condemnation again: “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven.” (2:12)
In the third one who feels we are precious because we are children of God and we need reminding of the wonder of our relationship with God: “I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.” (2:13)
In the fourth one he feels protective towards us because we are living in an enemy occupied hostile environment and he wants us to be aware of the deception all around us that we need to reject: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming.” (2:18)
In the fifth one he shares his fear for us, that we might get led astray by the enemy so that when Jesus returns we won’t be in the place we should be in, and he wants to protect us against that happening: “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” (2:28)
In the sixth one he simply expresses his protective concern in the most simple of ways, as a follow on to what he has said earlier about those around us in this world who the enemy will seek to use to lead us astray: “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.” (3:7)
In the seventh one he recognizes that a form of deception is to speak words but not live the life and he wants to protect us against that: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (3:18)
In the eighth one, he sees us as standing out from the crowd in the world, those who have resisted the lies of the enemy and who now live as children of God who have overcome the work of the enemy by rejecting the world around us and all their ways: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them,” (4:4)
In the ninth and final one, the very last words of this letter is care, concern and sense of protection reaches its peak as he recognizes that the world is divided into two camps, those who believe in and follow God, and those who reject the idea of God and in an effort to appear religious but hold onto control, worship anything other than God: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (5:21) Idols represent anything which takes the place of God and John’s strong pastoral heart reaches out to warn us against letting this happen.
In every case in these nine examples throughout this letter, John the pastor is exercising his care and concern for his flock, and by that we mean anyone who might read or hear his letter being read out. His concern is for the whole church, not just that expression in one place. As a pastor he is concerned for every Christian and each one of these instances show us what he thinks about us – precious children of God, set free from sin, set free from guilt and condemnation, standing as lights in a dark, deceived world, resisting the lies of the enemy, and remaining true until the return of Jesus. Is that how we see one another? Are we there for one another to stand alongside one another in supporting and encouraging one another and strengthening one another to remain strong and true in the face of the ways of the world and the lies of the enemy? May it be so!