The #Bible’s New Testament: The Book of 1 John – Words (and Ideas) That Get Polluted

I leave most of the cooking to Jared, as he is much more adept in the kitchen than I am.  Not only is he more adventurous, he’s better at following recipes.  I can read fine—and this is part of the problem.  Perhaps because of my writing background, I look for writers to convey exactly what they mean, and if perhaps he or she is unclear about what that might be, this also comes through in the prose—a character lacking direction, is searching for something vague. This is fun in a story or novel. When you’re in charge of feeding someone (in addition to yourself), this is no fun.

Or maybe just not fun for me.

When I cook, I like to know how something is supposed to turn out. Perhaps I invest too much in expectations, but I want to know exactly what I need to do in order to get from point A (all the ingredients) to point B (the finished meal). This is why vague recipes make me uneasy—or just drive me crazy.  Vague directions such as “simmer” or “reduce by ¼” put me on edge because my stove-top settings lack a “simmer” setting—I understand it’s near ‘low,’ but at what point does something simmer versus boil? How does one determine whether a sauce has reduced by ¼ versus a 1/3 or even ½? These are things I’m not good at “eyeballing,” as some directions encourage.

Once in a while—sensing my trepidation at embellishing a vague recipe, Jared will offer advice on adding this or that or substituting an ingredient because another probably doesn’t work. Although he’s usually right, I typically respond with, “But if that should be in there or if it should be done that way instead, the directions would say so, right?”

Perhaps at the end of the day, I’m too hard on myself, but when words matter—and they wouldn’t be in a recipe if they didn’t—I need clarity.

In 1 John, the author also demonstrates concern for how certain words and/or ideas have been interpreted and changed and thereby altering what Christianity is about.  Apparently the problem with misinterpreting Christianity’s message has become so great that the author must reaffirm the best way to be a good Christian—do right, be a good person.

With so many other books of the Bible focusing on the handful of ways a person falls short of this religion’s ideal, I found it interesting that this book makes no mention of sexuality immorality. Rather, we should merely “love one another” (3:11).

Apparently this simple message has been polluted to mean something different.  But how would people be getting a different message? Apparently, various “spirits”—read as visions, perhaps?—are responsible for disseminating false information—though perhaps flesh-and-blood people have been part of the problem as well. So how should someone decide which set of beliefs to follow? They need to “test” the spirits to see if they are from God, that they follow the right rules, accept Jesus (4:1).

Apparently these entities should be willing to submit to a form of cross-examination.

I appreciate the idea of verifying information (through testing, etc.), but John’s command here contradicts another rule for his audience: they should obey those in power, for obeying commands shows love of God (5:3). So here’s the rub: if people see God or his disciples as authority figures, how is testing them obeying what they say to follow?

But maybe people should know to distinguish between religious and political figures?  In either case, John adds a clear-cut, useful command: “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray” (5:16).

This idea is not necessarily something new, but what is new is what is left out: no mention of butting in, judging, instructing that person to change, etc.

The idea is that some people will do whatever it is they are going to do, even if that means “violating” a code of conduct established by Christianity. Recognizing this fact, John clarifies that prayer should be used over interference as long as the sin (like murder, perhaps) doesn’t lead to death (a person’s own or someone else’s). If not, then intervene; otherwise, let the person live his or her life.

Could there be a more basic, direct edict?

This is one set of directions that could not be clearer.  Unfortunately, some people—perhaps then as well as today—can’t help themselves and instead go out of their way to try and change people, even going so far as to enact laws to prevent these people from living the way they choose. They justify this stance often with the Bible. Yet if they’d read this book, they’d see that the Bible is quite clear on this rule: a person should pray, not intervene.

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
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