S OME CHRISTIANS DENY they are guilty of sin. That’s the problem Elder John and the Christian community face in this epistle.
It seems some folks think because they believe in Jesus as the one revealed through God the Father, then they are free of sin. Having accepted Jesus as the Christ, their Savior, they are no longer guilty of sin. In other words, they no longer sin or can sin.
John the Elder writes to warn about the dangers of denying the reality of sin in Christian lives. That is the challenge of Christian living that we consider today.
John constructs a series of parallel “if we” statements.
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WHAT WE SAY AND DO, then, are not matters to be taken lightly; they have serious consequences.
John reinforces the reality of human sin, even for believers. Let’s define sin. “Any thought or action that endangers the ideal relationship between an individual and God.” But more broadly in relation to yourself or to others, and therefore to God. sin is the bad things you do.
Sin can’t be summarized into a simple list. Anything you thought that was wrong, did that was wrong, or said that was wrong — that endangers the ideal relationship between an individual and God. Obviously this includes the “don’t” list from the Ten Commandments. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t covet.
Then there’s the sin of good things you neglected to do. This is much harder to be aware of. The innumerable ways we can help others, restore relationships, bring peace, live as a light for Christ and don’t do it. Or as Matthew puts it: When did we see you hungry and not feed you? Or naked or sick or in rough shape and didn’t respond with God’s loving kindness?
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IN THE CHURCH TODAY, the problem is not so much that believers deny sin, but rather ignore it. It’s not that we don’t believe we sin, but that we just don’t care that we sin.
There are lots of reasons for this.
Things that once were labeled sin are no longer labeled sin. Societal sins change. A simple example: When I was a young child I heard again and again that playing cards was sinful. Nowhere does the Bible condemn playing cards but that’s the way it was in my small town. Then we had a preacher who came to down and — guess what — he played cards.
Sometimes reinterpretation of the Bible moves one behavior from sin to acceptance. In both cases you start to think, well, if that’s not a sin what others on the list are not sins either which can lead to ignoring sins altogether.
Other times we simply justify our behavior. We ignore contradictions. We claim mitigating factors. Or some other excuse.
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OR MAYBE IT’S JUST the fact, like John’s Christians — since we are Christian our sins don’t matter. Instead of using Jesus’ love as a way of dealing with our sins, we use Him as an excuse to avoid dealing with our sins. I’m saved by the blood of Jesus so anything I do is no longer considered sin.
We are proud, where our Scriptures tell us to be humble. We think ourselves better than others, when clearly we are not. We seek to be masters of others, instead of servants of all. And none of that seems sinful to us.
Funny thing, we are still quick to identify sins in others. In Matthew 7: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in another’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? We are keenly perceptive of sins in other people, but we are blind to, or simply ignore, our own sins. Then we moan that no one takes us seriously.
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BUT, THE GOOD NEWS: We don’t have to live this way. Sin must and can be recognized and dealt with. Our choices are not ignore sin or live in guilt and agony.
Again John constructs a series of parallel “if we” statements.
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THE GOOD NEWS is that if we recognize and confess our sin, God will forgive and the Son will restore. While we cannot escape our sinfulness, we are assured that when we do sin, forgiveness is available for us. Jesus Christ, the righteous one, does for us that which we cannot do for ourselves.
— Keith Cardwell
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