5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 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 [b] sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
I had a bit of an Inigo Montoya moment with this one (you know the bit where Vizzini keeps saying “inconceivable” and then after a while Inigo says “I don’t think it means what you think it means). Well I don’t think this means what I thought it meant.
The book of the month for our Missio Dei crew is in actual fact all three of the numbered Johns, so in a moment of procrastinating from writing reports I started reading and didn’t get very far at all before I found something I needed to blurt about. For all my life: whether through poor teaching or (more likely) through theological laziness, I’ve assumed that wherever the Bible talks about “being in light”, I’ve equated that with some form of sin-management style “righteousness”. So being in the light means doing the good things, not doing the things from the dark-side, and mostly just being a nice guy.
But that’s not what I read here when I have another go. Because this does talk about sin, but it talks about says that when you’re in the light you “have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all [b] sin.” If “being in the light” was about not sinning then the sentence is farcical: when you don’t sin Jesus purifies you from sin.
Instead, what I’m reading here is closer to this: being “in the light” is about vulnerability with one another. It’s about being real about where we are: not “claiming to be without sin” and making Jesus a liar, but instead opening ourselves up to the harsh reality of light – letting the people you are in fellowship with see who you really are – warts and all.
So maybe this is not a new thing for most people, but I can’t remember hearing this taught on like this. Regardless, this represents a huge challenge for whatever brand of faith community you are a part of: being really honest with one another, genuinely transparent. In a similar vein, I wanted to share something from Pete Rollins’ “Ikon” community who have just done a thing on this theme:
Most of the time when we are with each other we are covered. We have so much technology now – technology that shrinks the distance between each of us and makes all sorts of new communication possible. And yet a lot of the time we still feel far apart from each other. It is almost as if our virtual selves have become just that – almost selves hovering around our lonely and disconnected interiors. Almost selves covered in the salve of technology bravely telling ourselves that we are showing our real selves for the first time.
But one of the amazing and frustrating things about being a human being is there is always the OTHER and nothing can get rid of it – nothing can span the space, nothing can take away the distance that exists between the OTHER inside and the OTHER in those around us. That no matter how many beautiful words and liturgies we construct, no matter how warm and inviting the atmosphere we provide, no matter how much we want it that we will always be in a state of lack.
And what happens when we set down our props – our candles, music, multi-media and set pieces. What happens when we only have our eyes, our ears, our mouths, our guts, our bodies to know each other with? What happens when we sit down with our lack and the OTHER and try to speak? What would we say?
Hope that helps you think, anyway.