Have you ever been trapped in your own head?
1 John was written in a time where the gnostic movement was confusing people - saying that knowledge and being "spiritual" was more important than the messy earthy stuff of being practical, acknowledging your body and basically being real. This kind of living can end up with you lying to yourself. In the first couple of chapters there are some "claims" being made, that are exposed as lies:
Lie number 1: "I don't sin." No one likes to admit they've stuffed up.
I once taught a piano student who blamed every mistake on something around him. His fingers were cold, or the chair was wobbly, or a noise outside distracted him. It seemed that the only thing not to blame for playing a wrong note was him! We did an exercise where, every time he made a mistake he needed to boldly proclaim "It was me!" At first it was tentative, but when he got into it, he realised that when he could own his wrong notes, then they could be addressed and fixed.
Sin does not define our identity. No one likes to condemn themselves. We forget that there is a remedy for sin and think that it stains us forever.
The real problem with sin is that it has impact on others. We mustn’t excuse ourselves for the hurt we inflict on other people or the world around us – God takes it very seriously.
The good news is that sin is not the end, and it doesn’t doom us to keep sinning, it doesn’t define how others view us. 1 John 1:9 says If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
We do sin. We sin often. But it’s not the end. Confess often and receive forgiveness often! James 5 says that we should not just confess our sins, but confess them to each other! Let’s get good at saying “woops, my bad, I’m sorry”.
Lie number 2: I know God (but I don’t act like Jesus).
1 John 2:3,4 use a word we don’t like these days “Command”. It’s very jarring for our time to hear that we are meant to obey commands. However, these verses indicate that when we know God, we don’t just have an example to work from, but we are motivated to be like Jesus. Knowing God means that our desires are redirected. We want to be more like Jesus.
It's impossible for us to truly know the love of God and not be transformed in the way we act toward others.
The commands that God has for us are centred around love. The more we love, the more we know God. The more we know God, the more we love others. (It's like a chicken and an egg!)
It’s very hard to obey God’s command out of fear or duty, because the command is to love. Fear and duty kill off love. Obeying God’s command is about letting God transform our hearts and minds toward loving others.
Lie number 3: I am in the light (or maybe one could say “I am in the right.”)…but I hate my brothers/sisters.
1 John 2:10 says that when you love someone there is nothing to make you stumble. Another way of thinking of that is to say that your hatred for someone, or neglect of them, will cause you to stumble.
Not loving your brother or sister is a danger to you. You are blind and likely to stumble.
When you don't deliberately choose love, you're susceptible to choosing malicious behaviour: gossip, slander, withholding help out of resentment, retaliation, excluding, judging, blaming. You are also likely to spend time going back to the first lie, saying “I haven’t sinned – the other person is at fault”. Jesus spoke specifically against that, telling us to be as quick as possible to reconcile because it hurts the heart of God and therefore blocks your effectiveness in prayer, mission and learning.
It's possible for us to look around and say “I love these people”, because we don’t feel any specific malice. However, we need to look to what Jesus said about love to really concentrate our efforts on loving each other. The big question I ask is “how do others know that you love them?” If you can’t answer that, then it’s a bit harder to claim that you love them as Jesus does.
Do any of these lies trip you up?