Summary: We do not share speculations. Rather, we are eye witnesses and we share what we have seen and heard of the truth—Jesus.
1 John 1:1-4 "Witness to the Truth"
One of the discussions that is taking place in the Christian Church today centers around our understanding of faith. Is faith the propositions that you believe, or is it your motivation for living and your lifestyle? To put it another way, "Is the crucial element in your faith that you believe the everything that is included in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, or is it, in the words of the prophet Micah, to seek justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly before God?
In the community that birthed the gospel of John and the three letters of John this was one of the controversies that arose. There was a break off group of Christians that stressed beliefs over lifestyle. These Christians emphasized the spiritual over the physical, the divinity of Christ over his humanity. As a result, they did not think that their beliefs necessarily affected what they said and did in their daily lives.
The writer of this letter of John pens his letter to the Christians in the community and stresses the incarnation of Jesus; his presence in the world and his humanity.
For the writer of this letter, this is not merely an intellectual argument. He writes, as he tells his readers, so that their joy will be complete.
I find it interesting that the purpose of the writer is to assure that his brothers and sisters in Christ experience complete joy. He doesn't write so that they may be saved form their sins. He doesn't say that his goal is to make sure that they will go to heaven when they die. The writer's goal is joy in the hear and now.
It is important that we capture the writer's goal and make it our own. For a large part of the history of the Christian Church, the emphasis has been on what a person believes rather than how a person lives. At a time in the Church's history, the emphasis on heaven and hell was deemed important. It appears that only a few of the people with whom we interact during the day are concerned about their eternal destiny. There are a lot of people, though, who want to know how they can live lives with meaning and purpose. They seek the joy of an abundant life.
The writer begins his letter, "We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…" The senses are stressed. This is not a theory, rather it is an experience. The writer has heard, seen and touched.
We talk about being authentic people; people who practice what they preach. We live in a society where people read labels and shy away from anything that is imitation. They want the real thing. They don't want anything that is artificially colored, or contains ingredients that you cannot pronounce. People look at Christians and want the same thing in the faith that is shared.
This means that we share what God has done in our lives and the affect our faith has had upon us. This does not necessarily mean that we tell about all of the mountain top experiences that we have had. People seem to be most interested in hearing how faith affects the everyday situations that they find themselves in. They want to know how faith helped us deal with a seriously sick child, or the death of a loved one. Our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors want to know how our faith enabled us to deal with the loss of a job, moving away from the community we called home, and if it has changed our perspective on aging.
People used to be afraid to talk about their faith because they thought others would ask them questions that they did not know the answers to. They feared questions like, "Can you explain what happens when the elements are consecrated during Holy Communion?" and "Why do you believe in infant baptism?" I don't think this is the case any longer. People want to know and experience a practical faith and religion.
LIFE IN FELLOWSHIP
In verse three, the writer shares that he is also writing so that his readers can have fellowship with him. Community is an important element in an experiential faith.
The writer’s goal in this letter is not that his readers have a personal relationship with Jesus--one where they do not need anyone else.
Christians hear see and touch The Lord in their community. We experience the divine when we worship together, fellowship with each other, study with our brothers and sisters, and serve those in need.
The community of believers is our support group, our accountability group, our advisors, our critics and our encouragers.