This text makes a profound connection: hatred of others and our own shame about ourselves. Cain destroys Abel through murder because Cain knows his deeds are evil, and Abel’s example of right living shames him. So to hate, exclude, and mistreat another too often flows from our own fear of allowing who we truly are to be brought into the light, seen by God and others. In order (in our minds) to keep attention from us, we point to scapegoats to exclude.
I know I’ve seen this to be true in my own life. How many times are the people who are the most hateful toward gay people the very ones struggle with some issue with their own sexuality? To avoid facing their own sexual identity confusion or their own guilt about issues with sex in their lives, these people choose to pick on sexual minorities in the church and community.
Similarly, how often when we are annoyed by or rejecting of another is it because of how that quality we see in them that so grates on our own nerves is something that we are upset about or ashamed of in ourselves?
The writer of 1 John calls us to be transformed by love. When we are transformed by love, we begin to learn God in Christ accepts us just as we are, not rejecting the parts of us that are not some perfect ideal. It is we who God loves. Learning this, letting it sink deep into our hearts, allows us to begin to accept ourselves no longer pretending those differences in us that make us different, imperfections that make us not live up to our or other’s ideals, and yes outright sins and shortcomings are not there. We learn to make peace with them. Strangely when we do this, the self-destructive and hurtful tendencies that may flow from these unacknowledged parts of us begin to plague us less, and we choose more life-giving paths. And, most important to the text, we begin to learn to embrace others in their difference, in their imperfection, and yes even in their failures.
That’s living grace. Today let’s learn to accept the grace offered to us in Christ, and to be that grace to others.