“Debilitating self-criticism,” is John’s acknowledgment that the problem we face is that of a condemning heart. This is a rather frequent and, often involuntary, experience on our part. Who of us, as Christians, have not had trouble with a bad conscience or a condemning heart?
John says that the remedy is that we must, “know that we’re living in God’s reality.” We must believe that we are indeed justified by faith, standing in God’s presence not by our own righteousness but by the righteousness of the Son of God, that we are accepted in the Beloved, that we are “in Christ,” because, as Paul tells us, in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If we are going to silence the doubts of our hearts, we must know that we “belong to the truth.”
“My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we will know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.” By this we will reassure our hearts by the knowledge that we are of the truth. He is referring here to acts of love, where we deliberately and with specific intent do a kind and helpful deed or speak a loving word to the one who has injured us or caused us to be plunged into this morass of condemnation.
“Don’t just talk about love. Put your love into action.” What a joy to see how many times these words have proved true. People have discovered that much of the loneliness and emptiness of their lives was simply a result of shutting themselves away from the needs of others. As soon as they began to minister to another’s life, they discovered that there was an awakening of the spirit of joy in their own hearts.