1 John is a letter which reads like a sermon. It begins with a strong statement of purpose. “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…”
This word of life is much more than an abstract concept, it is something lived, something heard, seen, touched. This word of life is the gospel shared by Jesus of Nazareth. It is a quality of life, abundant and eternal, lived by those who believe and follow. The author is speaking from experience. This word of life has been revealed in Jesus. We’ve heard it, seen it, and touched it.
Experience can be a potent teacher. Terry Waite, who survived years in captivity as a political hostage, had not been a man of great faith. But he turned to God in this awful experience and found the strength to survive. His captors would not let him read, so he recited the few Bible verses he had memorized as a child. When they allowed him books & paper, he poured over the Bible and wrote beautiful prayers that read like Psalms. When they allowed a visitor, he requested a fellow Christian with whom he shared his sins. Terry Waite found in his captivity of darkness the word of life that freed him.
1 John continues. “We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us…”
The purpose of this word of life is not to gain personal wealth, health or happiness. The purpose of the gospel is to create a community. It is not merely to benefit an individual. Christ did not come into the world for the benefit of a chosen few, but that all who believe might be saved. Jesus gathered around himself people from all walks of life and shared the good news about God’s kingdom. This kingdom has come to earth, and is lived out in our
But this strong community unraveled when the leaders began to see themselves as perfected, above sin. They created “open marriages” where any member could be physically intimate with any other, without being in a committed relationship. They did away with worship services, thinking they were already perfected and had no need of them. They began to think of themselves as without sin, and in doing so, they deceived themselves. Gradually, the members lost Christian unity, became angry and distrustful of one another, and the community folded.
As Christians, we are not without sin. We are also not with forgiveness. The good news is that we have an advocate, Jesus Christ, God’s holy one, who was willing to make a sacrifice for our sins, for the sins of the whole world. With Christ as our advocate, nothing we do or fail to do can separate us from the love of God. God is always ready and willing to welcome us home as we confess our sin. God waits for us to come out of the darkness and walk in the light.
As Christians, we are light walkers. Walking in the light means stepping out of the darkness of shame and self doubt, receiving God’s forgiveness and living joyfully for one another. It means stepping out of the cold, damp basement of our self–absorption, into the warm light of fellowship with one another.