Summary: John calls us to live open lives
Living in the Light - Get Real
Last week I talked about two streams of thought about Jesus that have some similarities to groups that the apostle John was having to deal with. I think these streams are best represented today by people like Dan Brown & his novel, the Da Vinci Code and Tom Harpur and his book, the Pagan Christ. These writers have very little in common except that they both present a conspiracy theory that says that early Christianity was very different from Christianity today, and that the original version was suppressed by the Church in order to keep the people in their place, and keep the truth from them. both brown and harpur say that they have discovered the original faith long buried and declare it to us now. It’s strange that the two versions are so vastly different from each other!
John had the opposite problem to deal with – there were people around his community who were declaring that they had the truth about God, the universe and everything, but they weren’t telling unless you joined their club, were initiated and got “enlightened.”
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Living in the Light (5-7)
Up until a few months ago, when I would read this passage there would be a number of questions swimming around my brain – I read John’s symbolic words about light as speaking of moral purity – God is light, he is pure, holy, never doing wrong. Darkness is sin, the wrong things we do in our lives and the wrong lifestyles we choose, so a verse like “If we claim to have fellowship with (God) and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” would seem to say that if we know God we will not sin. Which is funny, because the next paragraph says if we say we are without sin, we are liars!
John seem to contradict himself within one paragraph!
Last spring, I was talking with Glen Nyhus and everything became clear. When John is talking about living in the light, he is not talking about being perfect, but about living open lives – about being honest about who we are and what we do, what we believe and what we feel. Living in the light is not about being perfect, but it is about living with the lights on, so we don’t hide anything.
John is combating the people who have said that they have found the light and are keeping it a secret by calling his own people live open lives, free for all to see. The truth is not something that you keep hidden, it is something that you bring out into the light! And if we say that we are friends of God who is pure light, there should not be parts of our lives that we keep hidden in the shadows, we are people of the light and we need to live in the light.
The difficulty is that many people’s experience of the church is often the exact opposite! They say that they’ve given up on church because it is full of hypocrites. Instead of church being the community where you can truly be who you are, there often seems to be an unwritten rule that says that we need to keep the broken areas of our life in the shadows. We might put up a sign that says, “Welcome to church, pick up your happy mask at the door.” Many of us are not happy with who we are, or we are even ashamed with who we think we are, so we present something that we think is much better and acceptable than who we are.