I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. –1 John 2:26
As I drove across town today, I saw a sign, hand-lettered and bold in black on yellow, reading, “Stop Foreclosure Now.” I didn’t call the number on the sign, just as I have never called any of the numbers that promise to repair bad credit. Despite my lack of direct experience in this area, I have a sneaking suspicion that if you were to call the number, you’d discover that the cure is worse than the disease.
Why, then, do these people attempt to convince us that they can repair our credit, insure our cars, extend our warranties, enhance our diets, or stop the specter of foreclosure in its tracks? I think it’s pretty obvious. While they might have nothing that you and I truly need or want, we have something that the advertisers very badly want: our money. In a world where basic needs were long ago met by businesses, today’s merchants need to create new needs that they can proceed to meet. You didn’t know that you needed 112 channels of digital TV, but you apparently do.
Why this diatribe about advertising and phony needs? I’m guessing that John met his share of “Stop Foreclosure” salesmen in his day. In his case, of course, without the benefits of a sub-prime mortgage crisis, he dealt with spiritual charlatans. In order to understand this single verse, in which John gives yet another reason for writing, we need to try to understand the nature of those leading John’s readers astray. If John is writing “these things” in response to those leading people astray, then his words must be some sort of remedy to the false teachings. Since John writes about eternal security in the preceding verses, then I think it reasonable to assume that somebody was trying to undermine that teaching.
Today, false teachers attempt to convince us that we cannot rest assured of our reconciliation to God, that God’s grace is insufficient, that Christ’s sacrifice cannot effect our salvation. Why would somebody teach such doctrine? I would suggest that they do it for the same reason that other advertisers create needs. These false teachers seek to lead us into legalism with themselves as the lawmakers. They strive to use us for their own ends. This is exactly the opposite of what Jesus did when he came in the flesh and the opposite of the message of love, grace, and hope that John preaches. If that can’t get you excited about your faith, then you need to re-read 1 John up to this point.