The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. –1 John 2:4-5a
Today is the first day of the eleventh week of the semester. I like to refer to this period of the academic year as the “long dark night of the student’s soul.” Why? Simple: We’re far enough into the semester that the new has decidedly worn off, yet we’re far enough from the end that it isn’t exactly imminent Add to that the fact that students are beginning to see that their grade’s fate is being settled, and you have a lovely prescription for anxiety and doldrums.
Over the next month of so, I’ll probably have two or three students who decide that the best solution to their impending doom lies in the fabled grade of “I” or incomplete. Those of us who have taught for more than a couple of years recognize that the “I” is simply a “delayed F.” In my twenty years of teaching, I’ve had exactly one students–she delivered a baby around fourteen weeks into the semester–successfully complete an “I.”
What is an “I” worth? In a three-credit-hour course, you get twelve grade points for an “A,” nine for a “B,” and so forth. An “I” earns you none. A semester later, an “I” automatically turns into an “F.” So what is it worth? In virtually all cases, it’s worth nothing.
What is God’s love worth when it is incomplete? That question might make you pause, but a quick read of today’s passage demonstrates that such a question makes sense. Presumably, God’s love is incomplete when we do not obey God’s word. Is that a reasonable conclusion? The verse says, “God’s love is truly made complete in him,” in the person who obeys God. God’s love is not incomplete without us, but we are certainly incomplete without God’s love within.
In Christ, God’s love was made complete, incarnate, upon the earth. Through obedience, the believer can provide another vessel in which God’s love can take on completion. The question for each of us, then, is whether we provide such a vessel, whether we allow God’s love to come to completion through our obedience. God does not need that completion any more than I need my students to pass. But my students need to pass, just as I need to have God’s love complete in me.