No Swimming–1 John 4:6

We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. –1 John 4:6

We live on a lake, a charming little eight-acre body rich with turtles, geese, and yelping beagles. More those who live in our house, Penny, me, and three of the kids, life on the lake means only good things. A generous proportion of the leaves that drop from our lakeside trees each fall make their way into the water. The sun plays off the water in endlessly beautiful ways. We can go fishing by walking across the back yard.

For my grandkids, however, life is not quite so simple. They find the lake far more fascinating than we do, a fascination inversely proportional to their swimming ability. Several times this spring we’ve found Ira out on the dock. Last week, Isa, all two years of him, decided to slide into the water in the backing-down way that he descends stairs. Ira and Sydney pulled him out of the knee-deep water, covering his front with mud.

Regardless of how many times we insist that the kids stay away from the water, they seem drawn to it. They just won’t listen. The call of the lake seems far stronger than the admonitions of parents or grandparents.

I must admit that I have a hard time listening to authority as well. Sure, if somebody tells me not to step out into traffic, I’ll listen. Everyone listens to things that seem reasonable, logical, and desirable to them. That’s an easy obedience. But who listens and obeys easily when the commands seem capricious or foolish? Not me.

Notice that in this verse, John doesn’t say that those with the Spirit of God listen to God. He says this person “listens to us.” Us who? Presumably “us” represents John and other church leaders. Did people all assume that John knew it all? Apparently not. If so, then why would he write these words?

Does that mean that I’m supposed to listen to, to obey my pastor and other spiritual leaders now? I know my pastor. He’s eminently fallible. He mispronounces words and commits factual errors. You’re saying I have to listen to him, even when I think he’s wrong?

I believe that’s exactly what John says here. No, John’s not saying that we need to drink the Kool-Aid or follow a pastor into heresy, but then that’s not usually the problem for us, is it? This sort of teaching is tough for me and most adult Americans to accept, but it’s there on the page. I think it’s reasonable to believe that obedience to God’s anointed will keep us out of the deep water, no matter how appealing doing our own thing might seem.