Christianity spread throughout the Roman world despite encountering fierce, consistent resistance. Its growth reached a tipping point early in the fourth century when Rome officially legalized the religion and, only ten years later, adopted Christianity as its official religion. Roman emperor Julian (AD 332–63) came to power shortly after Christianity’s legalization and adoption and wanted to undermine its rise by reinvigorating Rome’s ancient religion. However, his agenda met with resistance that he blamed on Christianity’s practice of love. Writing about the attractive power of Christian love, Julian said, “[Christian faith] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”
Julian’s frustration echoes John’s conviction. John, in 1 John, wrote to address individuals who, like Julian, were trying to undermine Christians (cf. 1 John 2:18-23; 3:4-10; 4:1-3). His sharp address of those individuals revolves around two messages that anchor his letter and explain the love that roadblocked his plans.