What About Sin? – Reflection for 22 April 2018
John spends much time in today’s epistle reading discussing sin and righteousness. I would guess if we are truly honest with ourselves that our definition of sin looks something like a list of behaviors that other people do and if we are feeling particularly pious we might include some small things that we should work on. We might also define righteousness by self-reference and include behaviors like going to church, not cussing (at least not too much), and generally being “good” (or at least more good than bad).
John takes this even farther. John paints sin as open rebellion against God when he states that “sin is lawlessness.” Sin is a refusal to yield to God. He continues that as we choose to be in rebellion, we are choosing not to live in the household of God as children. He even goes so far as to say that when we choose rebellion over obedience, we are choosing to call ourselves children of the devil instead of children of God.
Hold this image for a moment and consider what this means when we look at our own rebellions whether they are large or small and begin to deceive ourselves that they are not that bad, or even worse when we begin to even twist the will of God and the Word of God to call them good. We refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth and we place a sign in front of the devil’s house saying “God lives here.”
John does not leave us hopeless. Even though in our rebellion we have called the devil our father and chosen to dwell in his wicked house, our true Father has shown such great love that He has called us His children and invites us to dwell in His house. Jesus takes away our sin and invites us to move back into the house of God and to be a part of the household as children of the Master. However, if we choose to cling to our sin and rebellion, we can not truly know Jesus.
There is a danger to knowing Jesus. John warns us that the world will no longer understand us because the world does not know the Father or the Son. John warns us that we will be so radically changed that we will be born of God. Not only will we live in God but God will also live in us. We will no longer rebel against God and be set against our brothers and sisters. Instead, we will come to know the righteousness of Christ as our own and love our brothers and sisters.
John lays out this distinction between sin and righteousness, rebellion and obedience so clearly that I almost think it is an instantaneous change and an either/or state. Indeed, Christ’s once and for all work on the cross declared us righteous and children of God. However, our journey to accept that takes a lifetime. We live in a paradoxical state that Luther described as “simultaneously righteous and sinful.” We are continually in a state of needing to come home to where we live. In the Daily Office, we confess that “we have followed too much the devices and desires of out own hearts” and that “apart from your grace there is no health in us.”
Again, we are not left hopeless. By the life of Christ, we are invited to turn away from rebellion and come home. By the Blood of Christ, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence in the love and mercy of God. By the resurrection of Christ, we live no longer as rebellious servants but as beloved children.