The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 1 John 1:2
More than a million young people take part in the International Letter-Writing Competition each year. In 2018, the theme of the competition was this: “Imagine you are a letter traveling through time. What message do you want to convey to your readers?”
In the Bible, we have a collection of letters that—thanks to the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit—have made their way through time to us. As the Christian church grew, Jesus’ disciples wrote to local churches across Europe and Asia Minor to help the people understand their new life in Christ; many of those letters were collected in the Bible we read today.
What did these letter-writers want to convey to readers? John explains, in his first letter, that he’s writing about “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.” He’s writing about his encounter with the living Christ (1 John 1:1). He writes so that his readers may “have fellowship with” one another, and with “the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (v. 3). When we have fellowship together, he writes, our joy will be complete (v. 4). The letters in the Bible draw us into a fellowship that’s beyond time—fellowship with the eternal God.
If God wrote a letter to you today, what would it say? If you wrote a letter to a friend telling about how you’ve encountered the living God, what would it say?
Thank You, Father, for the fellowship I have with You.
Who was John, the writer of this letter? He not only authored the three letters of John, but he also wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelation. Like the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, John and his brother James were fishermen (Matthew 4:21) who became part of the twelve chosen followers of Jesus (Mark 3:16–19). Within that group, John was one of the three who had a close relationship with Jesus (Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33). He refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), and love becomes a central theme throughout his gospel and letters. It appears that he alone of the disciples stood by the cross (19:26), and he and Peter entered the tomb first (20:8).