1 John 1 (New Living Translation)
This week is a collection of some of my favorite Bible passages.
1 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.
John was one of the original twelve disciples; at the time of this letter, he is an older man and perhaps the last remaining apostle. He writes with authority to his “dear children” to assure them of the truth of their faith in Jesus Christ. Can you hear the resonance between this opening and the Gospel of John chapter 1? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw
How is it possible for one to identify with God in such a way that one can share in the fellowship of the Trinity without actually becoming God? How is this closeness compatible with the incredible otherness between human beings and God? In Islam there is no possibility of such friendship; God is completely other and cannot have close interaction with human beings. On the other hand, in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and in New Age philosophies, human beings can so completely identify with God that they become part of the “divine soul.” The distinction between humans and God blurs until humanity is lost in divinity. Neither of these approaches is consistent with biblical thought about humanity’s relationship to God, which allows for both fellowship and distinction.
In Christianity a person can be in God but can never be God. Otherness of being is never lost. God can become human, and at one moment of history he did become human, but the process can never take place in the other direction. The basis of this is the Trinity, in which three persons maintain their total distinctiveness and yet have complete unity. It is a unity with otherness. It is a mingling without the formation of a compound. The fellowship and unity between members of the Godhead is ontological—it is part of their essence. The fellowship between human persons is psychological and ethical. The fellowship between human persons and the Trinity is conditional. We can have fellowship with God while he retains his otherness and we retain our personal identity. Our fellowship with God makes us more truly human than we have ever been before. It heals our humanity and completes our personhood.
4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.
Living in the Light
5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.
Written in 1987 by Graham Kendrick — “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”
6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
“Let us gaze at the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to His Father, because, poured out for our salvation, it brought the grace of repentance to all the world.”
–Clement, early Church Father
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
“If you have sinned, do not lie down without repentance; for the want of repentance after one has sinned makes the heart yet harder and harder.”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.