Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

3 John 11

 

John is giving us a proverb here. He is setting out a very simple and direct statement about an aspect of living in conformity with God’s will. This is the sort of thing that is intended to guide a follower of Christ into engaging with the world in a manner that will actually make a difference in this place and that demonstrates Christ to the people that we meet. What John tells us might seem to be very easy to agree with, for most of us would say that we do not go about looking at evil actions and embracing them as the model to follow for the day at hand. Yet, is that really true for the manner that each of us does, in fact, conduct life?

 

If I give it some careful thought and consider each interaction that happens during my day, I start to lose confidence in the nature of some of those engagements. Then, when I play back my internal audio track that records what I was thinking during some of those moments, it gets worse as I hear the negative, defensive, and down-putting words and feelings that went unspoken during those instances. So, it would seem that there are times during the course of my days when I am imitating the words, manners, and way of that which God deems to be evil, and if that is true then I am certainly not imitating Christ, who is the totality of goodness, during these times.

 

John’s proverbial warning is essentially a cautionary statement for each of us as we seek to live out our days as a follower of Christ. It is very easy to get caught up in a moment in the sort of worldly thinking and acting that pulls us off of our Lord’s righteous path and that, in so doing, diminishes the credibility of our witness to the love, grace, and redemptive nature of His Gospel. Evil does surround us, and its words of negativity and death saturate the very air that we inhale; so, it is easy to be influenced by it. However, God and His word of truth is even more present and is much more powerful than all that evil can throw at us. God’s Word itself provides guidance and encouragement to love others and to engage with creation as Christ does. The Spirit dwells within to speak truth and grace into each encounter and engagement that we face during our day, and prayer is our way and means for bringing all that Christ provides to us by way of goodness to bear upon every moment of the journey that our Lord is taking us on. So, the goodness that we are called upon to imitate is with us, and in so imitating it, we truly do see God and so does the world around us.

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof

will dwell among the wise.

Proverbs 15: 31

 

There is something truly special about biblical proverbs. They are these short, to the point bits of thought that bring a piece of truth and a taste of how we can live better in this life. Most of the time, they are just two lines long. None of them offer a complete picture of Godly living in themselves, but each of them contains truth that when applied moves us closer to knowing God’s intent and desire for how we should live. This is one of those simple couplets. It is easy to say and also too easy to skip over without much real thought.

 

So, let’s think about this together. No one likes to hear about their faults and their failings, but that is what it means to be reproved. In this section of Proverbs, the Lord is the one who is speaking truth and wisdom to the reader. So, God is the one who is providing the reproof. When I think about it, this is a true statement about most of the valuable correction and redirection that I have received in this life. When I have needed to be set straight, which has been and still is too often, God has spoken to me. Some of the time He uses His Word to state the truth, at other times He speaks through people, and there are instances when the Holy Spirit, Himself, lets me know about my sin directly.

 

Regardless of how the Lord chooses to bring His righteous way to my attention, He is speaking. So, it is then up to me to listen. The listening that God desires for us to engage in is different than much of what we do in our daily lives. When God speaks, He is not just filling space with sound; rather, God is giving us wisdom that when acted upon brings us into the center of His will. So, the listening that the Lord wants from us involves the intake of His thoughts and direction, and it also requires that we respond to them by changing the way that we are thinking and acting. As we act upon what we hear from God, we are moving more deeply into the heart of the land of those who are spiritually alive, and our lives become a voice of God’s wisdom in our world.