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.
1 John 1:5
Today is the third day of Christmas and also the feast day for St. John the Evangelist. The line above from St. John's first epistle catches my attention. John summarized the message of Christ by referring to Him as the light. In fact, He is light in so much as there is no darkness in Him at all.
We are not so. Before Christ enters our lives we are darkness and there is no light at all. But what happens when Christ comes in? "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it," (Jn. 1:5). Light drives out darkness. Does this mean that in a moment we are completely like Christ- with all light and no darkness? Not exactly.
The fact is that darkness still finds little nooks and crannies in our hearts in which to hide. We determine how much light permeates our lives. John continues in his first epistle to tell us something about the true state of our lives. "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 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," (1 Jn. 1:6,7).
We think we are all right as long as we give God His due. That means that we go to church occasionally, pray once in a while, and generally try to live good lives. But that's not really how it works. While we continue to live for our pleasures and pride, ignoring the plight of the poor, and wasting our time and money on that which does not profit, we do not really know God. We still walk in darkness. It is only when we walk in the light as He is in the light that we are truly transformed and set free.
Does this mean we must be perfect to be Christians? No. But it does mean that we are honestly and earnestly striving for that. It means we are following Jesus to the best of our ability today and that we are trusting Him to enable us to do better tomorrow. It means that we will not tolerate for another minute our forays into darkness. We declare war on sin, and we strive to live virtuously through the strength provided by our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the part that trips up many. They want Christ for the majority of their lives; for the parts that people see; for the parts that will make their lives feel better. But in the inner recesses of their hearts they do not always want to surrender all. They like the light, but they still want to cling to a little of their darkness. It' s familiar. It's comfortable. It's even desirable. But it's still darkness and they are allowing it to shut out the light.
John is much more concrete. He does not allow himself, or his readers, to live with the ambiguities so familiar to most of us. We either walk in the light, or we walk in the dark. There is nothing in the middle. According to John, it's all or nothing. We either surrender all to Christ, or we do not surrender at all. Our Lord is not content with half-hearted obedience. He will not condescend to the numerous concessions we are demanding. He withheld nothing from us when He gave Himself for our sins, and He will not be content with any less of a commitment on our part.
The moment we recognize a bit of darkness in our lives, He is calling us to follow Him into the light. As we yield to Him, however imperfectly, He leads us in the path of discipleship; the path of eternal life. But if we choose to cling to our darkness while mocking Him with partial worship, we have stepped over into the road of darkness which leads to death.
Please do not be deceived. Things really are that concrete. It is we who make up all the variables along the way to justify our sin. Christ will have none of it.
St. John died in old age a very broken man in body, but very rich and strong in the Spirit. He was known as the beloved disciple. He was closer to Jesus than any other man on earth. He knows whereof he speaks and we would do well to heed his words to us today. I close with this, again from St. John:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,
(1 Jn. 1:8,9).