Gutsy Love | Sojourners

Gutsy Love

"If anyone has the life of the world and observes his brother having need and shuts off his guts from him—how can the love of God reside in him?"—1 John 3:17

This unrefined translation allows us to understand more accurately and literally the phrases "the life of the world" and "shuts off his guts."

The Greek word used for life in "the life of the world" is bios, from which we get our prefix for words like biology, biography, biochemistry, and biosphere. Of the two words used for life in the New Testament this is by far the rarer. It means not only life but also the means for life, as we call one's income a living or livelihood. The widow who gave her last coin gave her whole bios, her savings. The prodigal son squandered his bios, his inheritance. The woman with a twelve-year flow of blood had spent her entire bios, her income, on physicians. Some have translated this phrase in 1 John as riches, but this is misleading, if not incorrect. The idea here is means of support or income, no matter how meager, as long as one has something to give. The New English Bible says it well: "enough to live on."

Bios is modified by "of the world." The world in John's writings means the fallen world system, which is hostile to God: "Stop loving the world and the things in the world! Whoever loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (bios), is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 John 2:18-11). If the Christian owns the goods of the world, which he [or she] is not to love, he or she must share them with a needy sister or brother, whom he is to love; otherwise, he "shuts off his guts from him."

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