Recently we talked about Peter’s dramatic change, from a coward simple man into a bold preacher of the Gospel. Another person who went through a change like that was the apostle John. The Gospel written by John is my favorite book of the Bible, and he is the apostle that I like the most. Why? Mostly because he was known for his love.
Nowadays, people call John the “apostle of love”, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, when John and his brother James first joined Jesus’ disciples, they were called “sons of thunder” (see Mark 3:17), which shows that they were mostly known by their temper.
We know that Peter’s faithfulness to Jesus failed when he denied Him three times. But John also failed a test before that:
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)
Yep, John and James wanted to destroy the whole city. Not exactly what Jesus meant by loving your enemies, right? They definitely had faith, but they lacked love.
John was probably like many of us. He was probably a “good person”. But Jesus wanted more. He wanted him to live the love of God!
But in order to live the love of God, John needed the source of that love in him. So John was only able to fully love when he received the Holy Spirit.
John talks about love in the three epistoles credited to him, and, according to the Church tradition, when he was of very old age, he was carried to the meetings and was only able to give very short sermons, saying “my children, love one another”1. That became the focus of his ministry.
Like Peter, he was also changed by the Holy Spirit, which finally enabled him to love like Jesus wanted him to. He changed from wanting to destroy a city that didn’t welcome them to teaching and preaching about love. And most importantly, living it.
In John’s own words, love is the proof of the change made by the Holy Spirit:
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (1 John 3:14)
May we all allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and enable us to live the love of God.