Darkness. Light. Fellowship. Forgiveness

July 8, 2009

During a recent meditation on 1John 1:5-10 an aspect of the passage caught my attention that had laid dormant in my understanding and application of the passage until now. John mentions that an implication of “walking in the light” is that we have “fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:7).

We don’t need to miss the important truth that in commanding that we “walk in the light” rather than “walk in darkness”, John intends that these are pattern of life issues. In other words, the normal flow of your life should be to walk in the light of Christ rather than walk in the darkness of your flesh. A good friend told me last week that he had always avoided this passage because when he read it he always walked away with the impression that we weren’t supposed to sin. I don’t think that is the case at all. As a matter of fact, the issue is that some of John’s audience were either in denial of or living to justify their sin (1:6, 8, 10). Essentially, what John is saying is that everybody sins. The issue isn’t that we sin. The issue is this: “What do we do with that sin when we do sin?”

This is where the new insight comes in. When we do sin (and we will), it is important that we do not hide or conceal that sin, and yet contend that we “have fellowship with him” (1:6). Rather, we should humbly and gladly live in the reality that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all (1:5), and that we should live in the light as he is in the light (1:7). In other words, when we sin, rather than hide what was committed in darkness in darkness, we should bring it into the light, which is another way of saying we should own our sin in light of the Gospel.

And why should we own it in light of the Gospel? Because in so doing “the blood of Jesus…cleanses us from all sin” (1:7), we find forgiveness through confession (1:9), and we have fellowship with both God and each other (1:7).

We must always recognize our need for the Gospel in our relationships with one another. This is the basis of our acceptance of one another (Rom 15:7). Sin not only breaks our fellowship with God, but it also undermines our fellowship with one another. And when we conceal our sin – both from God and others – we live in a world of falsehood because we are refuse to embrace both the sufficiency and satisfaction of the Gospel as the only possible means of our acceptance by both God and each other. Think of how real our relationships with both God and one another might be if we really believed that the Gospel is our only righteousness, and that there is no reason to hide our sin in darkness because the Gospel is big enough for both our sin and our righteousness (which is as filthy rags)! Oh how this would destroy our pretentious hypocrisy! Would this not necessarily undermine all of our image-conscious efforts to convince people that we are someone we know deep inside we really aren’t, and yet are desperate to prove, simply because we fear what others (and God) might think of us if they really knew the truth about us (and God does know that truth)!

Walking in the light certainly means that we are to consistently walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. But I’m convinced that it also means that we should live in the light of the Gospel in the way that we deal with our sin and our righteousness. It is in this reality that we experience true community within the Body of Christ and experience cleansing from our sin in Christ.

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