I wish the apostle John had written a book while he was a younger man. All of the books he wrote including the Gospel of John the three letters of John and the Book of Revelation were written when he was an old man. He identifies himself as “John the elder” in his letters. Perspective changes as the years pass and we see things differently at every vantage point in life.
If you visit the Grand Canyon it makes a huge difference which side of the canyon you visit. The view is different from the west side than the east side. In youth our view of things is almost completely about the future. We imagine what we will be when we grow up and talk about the changes we will make in the world. I love to hear the graduation speeches each year as a bright, enthusiastic young person declares what this class will do for the benefit of all mankind during their lifetime.
Somewhere down the line our focus changes so that we don’t talk as much about the future as about what has happened and what is happening now. We are engrossed in the lives of children. Family means more to us than just about anything else. We may or may not be happy with our career but we tend to think more of what our children may do to change the world and it becomes terribly easy to try to correct all the mistakes and failures of our past through our children.
As time passes the view tends to be more on what has happened. We talk about what we have done and what we have seen. Every new event reminds us of something that happened years before in a different situation and place. If we aren’t careful at this time in life it becomes altogether a reliving of the past. We like to give advise to others who are younger who tend to see our advise as out of date and not very useful.
If John had written as a younger man I wonder if he would have become known as the “Apostle of love”. In those earlier times he was better known as the “Son of Thunder”. From John’s perspective as an older man the church wasn’t just a place of dynamic growth and amazing opportunities any more. It was faced with huge dangers. False teachers were turning the hearts of people away from the Savior and Lord who had built the church. John’s warning was that if one didn’t have his thoughts right about Christ he was an “Anti-Christ”. There may have been many things that one could disagree about and still be right with God. But when it came to Jesus there was no room for error. “Whoever goes on and does not abide in the teachings of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the teachings of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9) He warned the elect lady not to accept and treat those who were teaching wrong things about Jesus as faithful servants of God.
It was late in life when he wrote the gospel account that bears his name. He focused on Jesus as God in the flesh and demonstrated powerfully how his miracles served as signs to bring us to faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Probably last of all the books he wrote was “Revelation” which was almost entirely looking to the future. We may differ over how far in the future his revelations were talking about. But there is no doubt he was thinking ahead in what he wrote.
John teaches us a great lesson as years pass. Keep looking ahead. While the future holds dangers and threats it also holds amazing opportunities. Living in the past is like driving while only looking through the rear view mirror. It gets very dangerous. Tomorrow may be frightening to us but tomorrow is the only place life can continue. When we stop looking ahead we are cutting off much of what life has to offer.