Gems in the Letter of 1 John
Part 98 - 1 John 1:7
Walking in the light
John does not hesitate. He says immediately, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”. He is making an obvious connection with his gospel, which started with “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”
He is also immediately giving an example of his common way of working in this epistle. I like to think of it as a game of tennis. He plays both sides of the net and picks up an idea and bats it backwards and forwards across the net. (The game of Squash racquets would be a better analogy but not everyone will know how that works.) Sometimes he then picks up another idea and has 2 ‘balls’ in play at the same time, or even three. His first ‘ball’ here is ‘light’ and then he adds to it ‘darkness’ and then ‘fellowship’.
He is remembering the words of Jesus ‘I am the light of the world’ and the Old Testament equation of darkness with sinfulness, such as in Job chapter 24: 13 - 17 where we read, “There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths. When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up, kills the poor and needy, and in the night steals forth like a thief. The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’ and he keeps his face concealed. In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. For all of them, midnight is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of darkness.”
In John’s thinking when he talks about light there is no dusk, when the light is slowly fading, or dawn, when it is slowly growing, no half light. That makes life difficult for our thinking if, as in many parts of the Christian church, people are expected to come slowly to faith with no clear line of distinction between their pre-Christian life and their faith life. Perhaps that is inevitable because we are human and that is the way we think. But from the point of view of God there is a clear sharp line of distinction between before we are born again and when we are just a hidden potential Jesus follower. We are either members of his kingdom with a passport that says something like ‘in the name of Jesus’ or we are not. We either have the Spirit gifted to us or we do not. We cannot be stuck in the birth canal, only half born; there are no short term visas for the Kingdom; there are no short term loans of the Spirit available for us.
In some ways this is very odd. It is not uncommon for someone to drift along as a fellow traveller with the people of God, even being listed in the church catalogue of members with some such label as adherents, or named in italics instead of full script. All such things are human devices, not the way God works.
Beware! The Kingdom of God is not a democracy, let alone a free for all where we are allowed to make up the rules. It is a theocracy - the only true theocracy where the Lord of All, the Creator of all, the Upholder and sustainer of all, makes up the rules. And he has asked us - what an act of condescension that is - to join him, to join his family, to become one of his children, saved and honoured by our acceptance of the leadership of his son. WOW!
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