Many years ago I had the privilege of sitting on a committee for a sports league that one of my children was involved in. We had scheduled several early meetings to plan for the year and to get the basic scheduling out to all the coaches, teams, and parents for the kids in the various levels. Anyone who’s ever organized 8 months of events knows how challenging it can be. Like a beautiful Swiss watch, there’s a lot of moving parts, but probably not near the timing!
The initial meetings went fairly well I guess. We were hammering out the scheduling details, calculating the jersey and equipment requirements, and securing the referees for the upcoming season. But, as we began to speak more about tryouts for the teams and how to go about making them as fair as possible, that’s where things, shall we say, went off the rails.
It was quite clear that people joined the committee so that they could enforce their own agenda – an agenda driven largely by the (perceived) needs of their child only. Certain decisions became so one-sided and self-centered that before long, the mood began to progressively disintegrate with each meeting. Conflicts arose and tempers flared. People stormed out on occasion while others sat there silent, trying to bury their heads in the sand. Like the allies in Normandy, people were “dug in”. There was a war to win!
The problem in the meetings is that there was no agreed upon mechanism for dealing with conflict and no foundation to do so. It was him against her, this little group against that little group, etc. Some gave up and threw in the towel. Others’ enthusiasm waned. It was unfortunate; at the end of the day, parents and kids suffered. As far as I can recall, not one of those who got angry or stormed out, or behaved badly, ever apologized for what they had done.
As Christians who gather regularly in the name of Christ, we are to do life differently, from a different foundation, in light of different realities, and with different practices. We recognize that sin and sins will happen in our relationships causing pain, sorrow and at times no little grief. But, God tells us that spiritually, morally, and relationally, healthy gatherings of God’s people are rooted in the light of Jesus’ Person. Our fellowship is to reflect Christ and His teaching as the foundation from which we plan, deal with disputes, and move forward. Christians drink from a different well.
The apostle John, the author of a little letter in the New Testament called 1 John, learned a great deal about these spiritual truths from Christ Himself. And, now in the small letter of 1 John, he passes them on to a small group of house churches in Ephesus, a coastal city in Asia Minor, present day Turkey.
How can we do life differently than the sports committee? Well, John says, you need a life-giving foundation – not one rooted in personal opinion and myopically vested interests. You need a firm and living foundation that all share in; that nourishes all, and that all operate out of. All our practices must flow from this foundation. That foundation is Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:11).
In 1 John 1:5-8, John clarifies the foundation of this new community. It is a foundation rooted in gospel grace and what that gospel teaches us about God, ourselves, and how to deal with sin. The gospel presses upon us three important realities: (1) the knowledge that God is light, that He is pure and holy, (2) that we must walk in the light if we’re to enjoy fellowship with Him, and (3) that we must confess sin when it happens.
If We Confess Our Sins
If we want to experience a clear conscience, if we desire a pure heart, if we desire to walk with Christlike, spiritual power in the light, as Christ Himself is in the light, then we must admit the guilt of our sins, as verse 8 says. We must summarily confess our sins to the Lord, To do otherwise is to become increasingly deceived as to who we are, what sin is, and what salvation entails.
We ought not to deny our sins with the result that its tentacles advance throughout our hearts, resulting in what scripture calls a hard heart, a spiritually insensitive, corrupted heart (cf. Hebrews 3:12-13). Make no mistake about it: sin proceeds by way of deceit and is always looking for an opportunity to spring to life (Romans 13:14).
So, whether we become aware of some sin through a sermon, through a person speaking to us, through scripture and God addressing us directly, let us repent, renounce, and return to the Lord and His people in faith. Keep sin on a short leash!
He is Faithful and Righteous
There is no greater consolation to us as Christians than to know that when we do genuinely and concretely confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us. He is faithful and holy and will not renege on the good promises He has made to us in the gospel, where through Jesus’ eternal sacrifice, He has once for all provided all that is necessary for our forgiveness and renewal (cf. Heb 7:27). We may be unfamiliar with this kind of complete forgiveness and it may take us quite a while to walk in it properly. It may take much time in Scripture, prayer and help from other, older and wiser Christians.
Forgiving and Cleansing
When we genuinely confess sin, God will release us from the guilt of it.(1 John 1:9) We are freely pardoned, based on the shed blood of Christ. But, He will also cleanse us from sin. He does so by making us aware internally of the sinfulness of the sin itself. He also makes us increasingly aware of the pain it causes ourselves and others, and how utterly opposed it is to the cross of Christ and the holy life He has called us to. As a good Father, He often chastens us for our sins in order to purify the desires of our hearts and to strengthen the principle of grace working in us. He does this, leading us to renounce sin, on the one hand, and to cleave to Him, on the other.
So, as we travel the Pathway with Christ, we know that we will sin at times. How should we handle our sin? Denial? Minimize it? Under no circumstances! When we sin, let us act on the three R’s:: Repent, Renounce. Return to Christ.