Love and abiding are the two words I’ve already said are characteristic of John. There’s another, less attractive and less important but popular in horror films and books – ‘antichrist’. For all its popularity in popular culture, another word-search shows that (in the NRSV) it’s used 5 times – all of them in the last three days’ readings.
It doesn’t seem to have the usual ideas associated with it – of a supernatural figure who will bring in the end of the world as we know it. Here (v.7) and where it’s used in 1 John (2:18, 2; 4:3) it’s a description of a tendency to deny the fatherhood of God and in particular the reality of God’s coming to earth in Jesus; a tendency which can become realised in a person even within the visible church fellowship but whose teaching draws people away from God in Jesus Christ rather than to him, or who goes beyond the teaching of Jesus in some unspecified way.
Here John warns his reader against offering hospitality to such people – for to do so would be to help them and share their guilt. These are harsh words, but they follow on from John’s reminder of the command to love.
Given that this idea is purely found in John, then it seems to make sense to identify ‘antichrist’ with one who draws people away from the Jesus presented to us by John himself – the Word incarnate, who speaks constantly of God’s love and human loving. When we emphasise anything else at the expense of love, then surely we run the risk of giving the spirit of antichrist room to squeeze out those two wonderful concepts – abiding and love.
Whether or not we have to decide about giving hospitality to a person who denies God’s love in Christ, we all have to decide whether or not we will give the spirit of antichrist hospitality in our hearts and lives – or will we decide instead to abide in the God who loves and calls us to love?