1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 1:1-2:2 ESV)
Church tradition says that the Apostle John was the last of the Twelve to die – and the only one not martyred. There are accounts of him in his old age being encouraged to speak to the Christians in Ephesus – to say something from those times when he was with Jesus. Tradition says that in those last years, he said the same thing – having got up and shuffled to the position to speak, he would look up at the gathering, eyeball them so to speak, and say, “Little children … love one another!” and then go back to his place.
When I read today’s Second Reading, I imagine the Apostle having a bit more breath and expounding a little. His argument this morning goes as follows: 1. We have seen and heard and lived with Jesus and through him God has given us eternal life. 2. We share Jesus so that we are one in fellowship and also so that our joy may be complete. This is the joy of salvation. 3. We are not lying and we are not in the dark but speaking the truth that we see our life in terms of forgiveness; that Jesus and his blood cleanses us from sin and he faithfully keeps forgiving us – which means we must faithfully and consistently recognise our sins. 4. Our life goal is not to sin but to struggle against sin and live with God – but if – when – we do sin, Jesus’ blood – his death – forgives us and indeed he forgives everyone’s sins.
Ok, I agree that ‘Little children, love one another’ is concise – and John does say this in the letter (!) – but what we hear this morning is the context, the reason why Christians should live the way they do. And that’s the Church’s point in having a Church Year, Church Seasons, is to relate or perhaps anchor our daily existence year in year out with the life of Jesus. You see it is easy for Planet Earth to describe and understand and treat religions similarly – as ethical systems dressed up with a deity – as behaviours seeking divine approval. Christianity looks like this. There is a deity and there are behaviours expected so the world just ticks it off as yet another religion. Christianity’s behaviour in its emphasis on morals, even its show of good deeds and the charge of hypocrisy when those good deeds are not good or are superficial has also contributed to lumping Christianity as just another religion in the world.
People today simply choose not to be Christian, don’t regard it as a viable lifestyle simply because of the behaviours they believe are required. Christianity, it seems, is not associated with the dynamic of Jesus’
resurrection. Jesus is known by the world but he is cast as some sort of spiritual guide or mentor or a new law giver in fact. Whereas John sets the scene in his letter by pointing out that Jesus is alive and that this is joyous news – liberating news – freeing news – the sort of news that brings light into darkness – life where there is death – hope where there is despair – is focused individually on each person when God and Jesus assures us of – bring to us – the forgiveness of sins, God’s mercy and God’s love.
John wants to establish the relationship with God first – what God has done – so that the consequences – yes, the behaviour – is seen properly – as response to God’s grace and kindness not in order to achieve God’s grace and kindness.
Last Sunday’s Earth shattering news – Christ is risen! – He is risen indeed! – is not just history – confined to books and the knowledge parts of our brains. No! It is news that creates life and hope – new creations in Christ – who are still living in this world with Jesus with them and living in such a way that they have reversed what is normal in this world. Christians live from death to life – death’s power has been defeated in Jesus and now we live with him.
What is most critical for us and for the world is us having the resurrection reality straight – that Jesus is alive, that we are linked with Jesus, that this is fundamentally through faith – so we’re trusting Jesus rather than proving Jesus to ourselves or to the world and we note that the world cannot prove us wrong even as it says we are delusional – and this trust in Jesus can be a struggle to live out each day but we want to follow Jesus each day. This is the resurrection reality – a daily experience of thinking about Jesus, reading Jesus, talking to Jesus, and choosing to behave as we believe Jesus wants us to behave.
And then on the anniversary of the resurrection – each week – Jesus calls us to come to him and we come together and he washes our feet again by forgiving us. He speaks to us and guides, leads, and challenges us. Jesus listens to our cries, our prayers and he responds. And then Jesus invites us to his table for fellowship and strength – spiritual food – which assures us that he is present with us forgiving, healing and blessing. And then he sends us back out into the world, into our lives with his promise that he is going with us. Yes, we don’t see Jesus – as I said we live by faith and that can be a struggle at times – but his words bring him again and again to us.
This is the resurrection reality. This is Christianity. And if we are to be known either individually or as a group for anything perhaps this is what we should be saying and pointing to more and more.
Why do I live as I do? Why do I say ‘sorry’ for my sins? Why do I try and live better to make the lives of the people around me better? Why do I live as I do and not follow the world in this or that area? Why do I have hope and joy?
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!)
- 1 John 1:1 - 2:2