Reading for Thursday, May 24: 1 John 1
Now we’re turning our attention to the epistles of John. John tends to be the most abstract voice in the NT. He writes of lofty, transcendent concepts like truth, life, light, and glory. As a result, John tends to see things as either black or white, evil or good. But John’s cosmic outlook also gives us some of the most grand and sweeping statements about the character of God in all the Scriptures.
1 John begins with eyewitness testimony: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” In Jesus, a life has been made known to us, the life of the living, eternal God. Before creation, before time itself, a life was being lived, an inter-Trinitarian relationship of loving communion between Father, Son, and Spirit. Out of the wellspring of this great love, God chooses to create life, with image-bearing humanity positioned as the apex of this gracious generosity. God seeks communion with us: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” As outlandish as this sounds, the Creator of all things seeks to share His eternal love — the same love that defines His very existence — with you and with me and with all humanity.
But there’s this pesky little problem, a fly in the ointment, that John keeps reminding us about: sin. Sin is the ultimate roadblock to communion, the barrier to our reception of God’s loving intentions. “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” John speaks telescopically; he isn’t talking about those day-to-day struggles, momentary lapses that plague us all. He’s speaking of playing the charlatan — willfully living in darkness while claiming to have life in the light. This is living the lie, relishing the darkness.
But John also sees sin as our universal virus; even the most resolute and willful among us is still marked by sin’s stain. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” The anti-dote to this self-deception? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That little modifier has all the import in the world: ALL unrighteousness. This is the power of the Gospel, to eradicate ALL darkness, ALL strongholds of evil, in the light of His glorious resurrection life.