Not too long ago, I saw a story about a guy in New York who wasn’t among the best and the brightest of criminals. It seems that Tracy Wilson walked into a bank and tried to pass a counterfeit $50 bill. However, there was teeny tiny detail Mr. Wilson got wrong. His $50 counterfeit bill had the picture of Andrew Jackson front and center. The problem? Well, the $50 bill features Ulysses S. Grant not Mr. Jackson (he is on the $20 bill).
The teller, who recognized the mistake instantly, tried to talk Mr. Wilson out of trying to pass the counterfeit bill. She reminded him that what he was attempting to do was illegal. But Wilson insisted the teller cash the bill. In fact, even as the guards came to arrest him, Wilson was demanding the teller cash the bill.
I bet the United States Treasury Department wishes that all counterfeiters were that easy to discover. But since most counterfeiters are not as careless as Mr. Wilson, the department is forced to employ a special group of men and women whose only job is to investigate and arrest counterfeiters.
I was curious how these men and women learn to spot counterfeit money. After all, I would imagine that most of the folks who try to pass counterfeit bills do a pretty good job at duplicating the original. After doing some research, I discovered that the training is pretty intense. These men and women are not trained by studying counterfeit money. Instead they spend countless hours studying real money. Imagine that! They become so familiar with the real thing that they can spot a counterfeit not by looking at it but by simply feeling it.
It is evident that John had a real concern with real versus counterfeit. And it wasn’t regarding money but something of greater value. He was concerned with Jesus followers who did not really love one another. He was worried that too many in the community of faith did not know how to tell the difference between real and counterfeit love.
Rather than spending time talking about how to spot the counterfeit, he gave the example of what real love is. He reminded them (and us) about the “real” love of Jesus. It was a love of action not just words. As John puts it, “We know love by this; he laid down his life for us…” That is real! And it is the love followers of Jesus are called to show the world…