In the Gospel of John chapter 1, we see the excitement of those who meet and follow Jesus. John the storyteller, Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel. They knew immediately what a special and exciting thing it is to be a follower of Jesus. And now that John begins his letter (later in the New Testament) with, “We declare to you what was from the beginning! What we have heard! What we have seen with our eyes!” (1 John 1:1) we see that the excitement never waned. The testimony of those who have seen and heard and touched must be shared in order that fellowship with God and Church may truly happen (1:3). The joy of his experience with Jesus won’t allow John to not share his testimony.
Then, John’s own summary of what he’s learned from Jesus is: God is light. What a way to distill all of what John has seen and heard and touched! For God to be light means that God is not so much what we see as God is how we see. God is that which opens our eyes and illuminates what is in front of us. God is how we perceive one another and the world around us. Light is often used as a vague metaphor for that which is good and righteous. But now John gets us to ask the question – are we actually ready for the light of God to shine everywhere in our lives?
Something obvious happens when the light of God reaches further and further into us: things get exposed. Sin loses its hiding place. The parts of us that we hide from others (or at least don’t readily volunteer to others) get found out. Though we don’t like to admit it, we cherish the dark because it promises to hold our sins, faults and embarrassments so that those around us will believe that we’ve got it all together.
For John, sin is a big problem, but not the biggest. The bigger problem is that we have too many reasons to hide sin (as well as fear, anger, conflict, shame, doubt, etc.). But as hard as it is to fully step into the light of God, the light is nothing but good news. To step into the light is to be cleansed and renewed by the blood of Jesus (1:9). To confess our sins is to welcome God’s forgiveness (which, as John assures, is a sure thing!). We trust the dark because it promises to make us look clean. But the light of God promises to actually cleanse us.
Where there is sin, there is the promise of forgiveness, and forgiveness “for the sins of the whole world” at that! (1 John 2:2) God’s desire to forgive will always in the end outweigh the pull that sin has on us, which is why John writes a little further down, “The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (2:8) The life, the joy, the fellowship and truth of Jesus is pulling us into his light and out of our darkness. Relinquishing the dark is the hardest thing in the world to do. But John tells us what’s at stake: fellowship, with God and with each other (1:7). Real, transforming, life-giving fellowship with God and one another can’t take place as long as some things are staying hidden.
In the light of Jesus’ presence are joy and forgiveness and fellowship. So we come into his presence frequently, through prayer, through scripture, through worship, through community. And we surround ourselves with people we trust, people who will meet our shortcomings with mercy and love. Let us do this and watch sin and darkness flee.