Saint Justin Popovich
‘And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. My children, keep yourselves away from idols. Amen’. (1 Jn. 5, 20-21)
This verse, 20, encapsulates the whole of the Gospel of the holy Theologian and the whole of his theology: ‘the Son of God has come and has given us understanding’, so that we can recognize him as the true God. And he gave us the power to become his own and to dwell in him. So that we’re within him with our whole being, within the true God, and therefore, through him, in eternal life, since he is both true God and eternal life.
To the question ‘Where are you?’, the proper answer for real Christians is ‘We are in Jesus Christ’. Even though we live in the world, which ‘lies entirely in evil’, we are in Jesus Christ: in the true God and in eternal life. Had the true God not given us ‘understanding’, we wouldn’t recognize the real God and we’d remain forever ungodly. Because, as God and human, only Christ is the true God. Those who don’t recognize this and don’t confess it are impious, because they don’t know the true God. It’s the same if people look on someone or something else as God. Again, they’re wicked because they don’t recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as the one true God. And the fact that he’s our true God is demonstrated and proved by the fact that he not only has eternal life, but is himself eternal life, which he grants to all those who believe in him. From this we know that he’s the true God, who is himself eternal life which he bestows on all his followers. This is the surest method of distinguishing between the true God and false gods. Any god is false if they can’t ensure and confer eternal life on us. And this isn’t possible for anyone who’s not in a position to defeat death.
Jesus alone was able to conquer death by his Resurrection. This is why he’s true God and eternal life. All the rest are false gods. Recognizing, confessing or preaching any god other than Christ is simply impiety and idolatry. All idolatry is, in reality, ungodliness, since venerating them is an act of impiousness. Everything belongs to idolatry: from the coarsest fetishism to the most refined symbolism. Idolatry isn’t just venerating false gods, but also stones, trees, animals, planets, statues, and also people, heroes, geniuses and inventions, ideas, passions, culture, civilization, science and philosophy, art, or anything else we might want to substitute for the true God and Lord Jesus Christ.
This is why the holy Theologian finishes his Epistle with the words ‘My children, keep yourselves away from idols’: Stay away from idolatry and flee ungodliness. ‘Amen’.