John’s letters were written because at the time there were people in the churches who were promoting a diminished and twisted perception of Jesus Christ. This false teaching interfered with how people understood both the real deity and the real humanity of Jesus Christ. In doing so it also interfered with the moral standards appropriate for those who believe in Jesus Christ. It erred, therefore, at two levels: the level of truth and the level of morals.

These two important aspects of the Christian faith – what we believe and how we live – go hand in hand. If, for example, we say we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, but our lives demonstrate no submission to him, then our lives deny our words, making it evident that we do not really acknowledge him as Lord.

Scattered throughout John’s first letter are quite a lot of statements that refer to this connection between faith and life, between words and actions. Some of these statements can seem to be quite unsettling; they seem to infer that salvation can be lost. But that is not John’s intention. He wants to make sure that we believe in the real Jesus. His intention is to get us all to examine the integrity of our claim to believe in Jesus Christ by looking at what we believe and how we live our lives. His question is: Do your words and your actions reflect the true truth about Jesus? If they don’t, then we do not really believe in the real Jesus, and, therefore, cannot rightly be identified as his followers.

The first of these unsettling statements is in 1:6:

‘If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.’

And its opposite in 1:7:

‘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 sin.’

These two statements follow directly after John’s summary of the message that the apostles received from Jesus Christ and declared to others: ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’ (1:5).

There are things that go together, and things that don’t go together:

On the one hand there are:

Walking in the light/living by the truth.
Having fellowship with God/having fellowship with each other.

And on the other hand there are:

Walking in the darkness/not living by the truth.
No fellowship with God and with each other.

There is a clear cut distinction. The reality of the first group and the reality of the second group cannot be mixed, because the second and third elements in each group are dependent on the first element in that group. If we do not have the truth about God, we cannot live in the light of that truth, and we cannot have fellowship with him, because we simply do not know him.

As we saw in the previous meditation, if we know Jesus Christ, we have seen, and we know, the truth about who God is. We are no longer in the darkness; we are no longer spiritually ignorant or deceived. We do not know everything about God, but we do know him. No longer do we run here and there trying to find ‘god’. No longer do we limit God to any human definition or perception of ‘god’. No longer do run after the latest fad ideology, or after a mystical spiritual experience of ‘god’. In knowing Christ we know the truth about God; in knowing Christ we know God.

In coming to know God through knowing Christ we have turned our back on all the diluted and distorted ‘god’ concepts that humans have embraced since believing Satan’s lies in Genesis 3. In Christ, God has come to us and said: Here I am. This is who I am. Believe in me. Follow me. And when you do, you will never again walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. When you do, your separation from God is reversed.

In Christ, light and truth have come to us. In knowing Christ we again know the one true God. On the basis of the truth revealed in Jesus Christ we have fellowship with God and with each other. It is a fellowship of truth, a fellowship of light: the light, the truth, unite those who believe in Christ with God, and bind those who believe in Christ to each other.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021