1 John 5.21 ends the letter with, dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.
The Apostle John ends his letter succinctly with the summary admonition to stay away from anything that might take God’s place in our hearts. This statement feels much like the Lord Jesus’ summary of what God the Father really wants from us: love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
The first question we must answer from this command is what place God is to have in our hearts. First, seems like the obvious answer but for most it is not how we live. The first struggle all of humanity has is having God first place in our lives.
What does that even look like anyway? Not having a good answer to this question is perhaps part of the problem. What does it mean to place our families first? What does it mean to put ourselves first? What does it mean to place our work first? Are these not the primary competitors with God for first place? When these things are first they receive the first, best and most use of our time and money.
When family is first I work less, I ignore friends, and I invest the bulk of my money on family activities. When I am first I do what I want above all else. I spend money first and possibly most on those things I want to do. Everyone and everything takes second place behind me and what I want when what I want has first place in my life. When work is first it receives the bulk of my time. Work success becomes the definition of my worth and whatever time or effort it takes to win there is what is given to keep this idol happy and satisfied.
We know what first place in our lives looks like when they are things other than God. What does it look like to have God first in our lives? Jesus. Jesus lived among us demonstrating to us how to live with God and one another when God the Father, His glory and His will on earth as it is in heaven, is first place in our lives.
The Apostle makes this clear earlier in this letter when he teaches, anyone who claims to be a Christian must live as Jesus did.