One of the striking claims in this passage from 1 John 3:1-7 is “no one who sins has either seen him or known him” (3:6). This seems to contradict what we heard last week: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1:8). How can the author of 1 John say that the followers of Jesus do not sin and, at the same time, that we need to confess the sins we know we have?
Like I mentioned in my sermon last week, there has been a split in the churches that first wrote and used the gospel according to John. Two groups emerged arguing over the nature of Jesus. The author of 1 John believed Jesus to be fully divine and fully human – all at the same time. The other side believed that Jesus’ divinity is all that mattered. This argument about Jesus impacted how they lived their lives. If Jesus is fully human, then how we live our lives right now matters. If Jesus’ humanity is not important, than what we do today doesn’t really matter in the end. For the author of 1 John, sin (the way we deny Jesus and fail to trust him because we are too busy acting as if we are the center of the universe) impacts our relationship and experience of Jesus. For the other side, sin does not alter their relationship and union with God. This kind of belief encouraged a way of life that did not focus on justice, righteousness, or ethics. It’s a way of life that assumed we’re already “good enough,” and thinks that Jesus (and Jesus’ church) cannot show us a new way of living.
Today’s passage from 1 John begins by proclaiming who, through baptism and faith, you are. You are a child of God. You are, right now, living with a fully human and fully divine Savior who cares about you. You have been adopted into God’s family and God’s family cares about justice, mercy, hope, and love. When we live as authentic children of God, following Jesus and serving each other are just what this family of faith do. But, as imperfect people, we sin. We make mistakes. We fail. But when we admit our faults, we also admit who we belong to. Being with Jesus empowers, inspires, and helps all our relationships with other people because we all struggle. In spite of our identity as Children of God, we will sin. But we trust that the Jesus who lived, died, and rose for us, will keep his promise. The eternal life doesn’t begin only when we did. In Christ, our eternal life starts right now. And the core of that life involves loving God and everyone else.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for Easter, 4/15/2018.