“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 2:28–3:3)
There is a wonderful verse tucked away in this passage which gets to the heart of the Apostle John’s experience of the faith: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
Think of the phrases which we find in John’s writings: “God so loved the world…”, “see how he [Jesus] loved him”, “a new commandment I give you, to love one another”, “as the Father has loved me so I have loved you”, “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. I could go on, but there are over a hundred uses of ‘love’ in John’s writings. You get the point.
It is because of this love that we can “abide in Christ”, which is to say that we can live out his teachings, place our faith in him and unite with him through prayer. Because of this abiding, we can be confident in front of God and not fear God’s judgment. We can even be called children of God, and practice righteousness, as the Spirit of Christ dwells in us.
All of this is encompassed in John’s understanding of the love of God. It is not a mere emotion, but an activity of God. It is the sending of Jesus, and his death on the cross. It is the reality that you - yes, you - can be united to God.
This is why John can cry out in wonder: “see what kind of love the Father has given us”.