The basis of any relationship is truth— the representation of things as they really are. I think this is John’s point about what it means to have fellowship with God and with one another (1 John 1:5-2:2). He begins with God: “God is light” … God is true, and what he reveals is true. He cannot lie. With him there are no shifting shadows. He operates entirely in the realm of truth.
To have fellowship with God means to live in the realm of truth. Not just in what we believe or say, but in our actual lives. Fellowship with God is not just knowledge about God, but also to share in his life, to have intimacy with him. I read someone who put it this way: “To walk in the light is to live in openness to Him who searches our hearts and endeavor to live in conformity to whatever He reveals to us.” God is calling us into the light, to share in His life. When we resist, when we ignore him and go our own way, we walk in darkness.
The message of the gospel begins with God. We tend to start with our situation and our problems and then come to God to see what He can do for us, but John starts with God: “God is light.” John also has our fellowship with one another in view (see verses 3 and 7). Here, too, we must start with God rather than our situation and problems. As C.S. Lewis observed, Christian friendship is about God. God is light, and as we pursue him together, we necessarily come into the light with each other, and that draws us together in deep ways. We know and we are known as we really are. It doesn’t mean we are perfect. It just means we are honest.
We can know each other only to the degree that we are honest with each other. If I represent myself as something I am not, the relationship is twisted. In some ways you know the parts of me that I have been honest about, but in other ways you know the false me, the one I have put up as a front. You may like the false me, but it’s not really me. That is not true relationship. It’s darkness.
“Darkness” is the realm of what is false, deceptive, destructive, and evil. The imagery of darkness points to the reality of sin, which is the foundational problem in our relationships. If we say that sin is not the issue (vs. 8), we are deceived. I know you know sin is the issue, but is that how you act in your relationships? Here are some indicators that you don’t really think sin is the problem:
- You tend to think that the issues in your relationships are about personality differences, different love languages, and the like. Those things are factors, but underneath all that the principle of sin is waging war against all that is true and good.
- You expect perfection from people, lacking compassion for them in their struggle against sin.
- You are shocked by people’s sin, as if you can’t imagine doing that yourself.
- Your relationships stay on the surface. You don’t talk about your sin with God or others. You gloss over issues in relationships like they are not a big deal. Just as an exercise, ask yourself how many times in the last few weeks you have sinned in a relationship (selfishness, judging, gossip, fear of man, etc.) Now ask yourself how many times you have talked about those sins with people. The gap reveals how we really do keep things on the surface, acting as if sin is not actually the issue.
Even if we acknowledge that sin is a problem in general, we may not be willing to acknowledge our specific sins in particular (vs. 10). This plays out in our relationships as well:
- Defensiveness: You find it difficult to receive feedback about weaknesses or sin. When confronted, you explain things away and justify your actions. If this is you, you probably don’t have many conversations about issues in your life because nobody wants to bring it up with you.
- Blaming: Are you quick to blame others when things go wrong? Do you have a difficult time “owning” your contributions to the brokenness in your relationships? Do you think your part in the relationship is to deal with the other person’s sin? Do people think that you never see the sin you we bring to the situation?
If you are afraid that people will know you have sin, then you are afraid of true relationship. If you are not willing to deal with the realities of sin in other people’s lives, then you will not have true friends. We have to deal with the reality of sin if we want to walk in the light. We do this by believing and acting on the gospel. Every time John talks about sin, he follows it with the hope of the gospel. It is like a light shining in the darkness to show us the way out.
|The Deceitfulness of Sin||The Hope of the Gospel|
|1:6 – We say we know God, but we do not practice the truth||1:7 – We can have fellowship with one another and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus|
|1:8 – We are deceived about the reality of our sinful nature. We don’t think sin is the issue.||1:9 – If we confess our sin, we can be forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness|
|1:10 – We don’t want to acknowledge our particular sins, or act as if we do not sin.||2:1-2 – We do not have to have a righteousness of our own. Jesus satisfied the wrath of God against our sin, and pleads his righteousness on our behalf.|
The gospel gives us hope for true and deep relationships! You can walk in the light no matter where you are in your relationship with God or others. You can do this today, because it is not about being perfect, but honest.
The gospel frees us to walk in the light, but there is still the question of how the gospel enables us to walk in the light. That will be the subject of my next post.