Monday, June 11, 2007

Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by 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, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. I John 1:5-8 NIV

What does it mean to walk in the light, as opposed to, as the Message puts it, "stumbling around in the darkness"?

As a kid, I memorized these verses, and always associated "light" with "good." Walking in the light = doing good (as opposed to walking in darkness = evil). As I've spent time in I John lately, light has taken on a different meaning to me. It seems there's a connection between a place of light (walking with God) and admitting my sinfulness. Light signifies a revealing, a sense of honesty and openness. Darkness, although we usually associate it with evil, conveys more of a sense of hiding. When we hide from our true selves, we feel alone and loneliness is the greatest curse of walking in the dark.

I have nothing to hide – God sees and knows everything about me. But oh, don't I spend a lot of time trying to look good? But as long as I’m hiding from myself and others, how can I grow? When others are open and honest with me, I see firsthand the transforming work of God in their life, which fuels my desire for the same. And when I’m willing to take a risk and be vulnerable with others, I am in a place I can grow.

The Message puts verse 7 this way: But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God's Son, purges all our sin.

That to me is the kind of fellowship I think God intends for us to have with one another. Not dressing up and looking good. Not pasting on a smile and replying, "Fine," when asked how we’re doing (“fine” is the f-word I’m trying to eliminate from my vocabulary!). But learning to be honest and authentic with others.* Admitting our weaknesses, identifying with others. Assuring others that we struggle with the same things. And in the light of God's righteousness, we're convicted to abandon our sinful ways. Our pride and willfulness. Lack of trust. Selfishness. Only then can we experience the cleansing that is to be had through the blood of Jesus Christ. And only then can we experience his transforming work in our lives, both individually and corporately as the body of Christ.

Bottom line: I don’t think “walking in the light” equates to a state of living we can achieve. It’s not a “side” to be on, like the children’s game Red Rover. I think it’s living in a place where we’re willing to be ourselves with God and others, secure in the fact that God loves us in spite of our sins and shortcomings.

* A great book on the topic is The Gift of Being Yourself, by David Benner, which I previously reviewed. My review doesn't do the book justice however; go check it out for yourself. And here's a great article on the topic I just read on