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 cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)
I mentioned Sunday that Generations is essentially about 3 things: Jesus, Community and Mission. I want to remind us, from Tuesdays reading of 1 John 1:5-10, what it means to walk in biblical community that is rooted in Jesus and catalytic for mission.
You can only have real relationships when people are known by and honest with each other. Light is the place where fellowship flourishes. There’s no isolation in the light, because we can be honest, real, known, and still loved and accepted. This means we have to war against the desire to let people see only our best sides while hiding our scars and struggles. We have to be willing to reveal those embarassing things that we care about, and the even the shameful things that we struggle with. We have to lay aside our misleading desires to be impressive. Biblical community will exist and can only exist where confession of sin is normative among brothers and sisters.
To open up our lives to people this way is risky… It takes great courage. And for those who trust us with the deep things in their hearts, it’s a great honor. A gospel culture cannot only place the burden of responsibility on individuals being honest about their real selves. A gospel culture also places responsibility on those in the community respond with honor, acceptance and love toward those who disclose the unflattering reality of their lives. A gospel culture - a culture of light - is somethig we create together, where the light of God is reflected by the light in us.
About two years ago, Ray Ortlund turned me on to these three components of a grace-filled culture: Gospel, Safety and Time. There all here in 1 John 1.
"The blood of Jesus cleanses us..." We can’t fix each other. Only Jesus can do that. We can’t even fix ourselves, so let’s stop trying to fix one another. We can walk as people in need of grace, alongside our brothers and sisters in need of grace, toward the healing and wholeness which Jesus has purchased for us, by his own blood. But our healing is found in Jesus and theirs will only be found in Jesus. Let’s continually go together with our bent hearts to the only one who can draw straight lines with crooked sticks. Let's not expect or try to clean ourselves up or clean each other. Let's allow the blood of Jesus to be the cleansing agent in our community.
Safety is nurtured when we respond to confession by going together, in our shared brokenness and need, to the Father in prayer, asking for his help to walk in the light of Jesus rather than in the shadows of our sin. Walking in the light doesn’t mean we confess our sin to everyone. It does mean we confess our sin to someone. You need brothers or sisters whom you trust and who know and love you; to whom you can go and say "I am struggling in this area and I need your prayer"; people who know your deepest wounds and temptations and who you give permission to ask anything. We can’t fix each other, but we can pray for each other. We can struggle for one another in prayer before the Lord and ask for his cleansing and power and comfort. And we can speak His love over one another, and ask for his Spirit to breathe life into dead places.
Safety also means that while I confess my sin to God and to others, I don't confess your sin to anyone. I am not free to tell others about your sin. Nor am I free to tell you all about your sin from my perspective. I’m free to confess my sin to you. I’m free in Jesus to be honest about my sin. I’m not free to embarrass you, shame you or lay heavy burdens on you, so I can feel better about me.
We "walk" in the light. We aren’t required to sprint, or even to jog. WE CAN WALK. God is so patient with us. He’s not hurried. He doesn’t expect us to become a Christian and then figure everything out overnight. He doesn’t expect us to mature in all areas of life right this minute. He simply says "Walk". Move forward. One step at a time. Discipleship is not about your pace it’s about your progress. It’s about direction, not perfection.
These are the underpinings of a gospel culture. Gospel. Safety. Time. We are confident that we belong to him and are kept by his grace. With that light shining, we take the step of being honest about who we really are - our sin and failures. We confess them honestly and openly. And as we confess, we readjust and take small steps of obedience. This creates forward momentum.
Your journey with Christ can be traveled at a pace and in a manner that is not frenetic, anxious or fearful. Your journey with Christ can be steady and sustainable. But any journey that is actually with Christ, must be traveled in the light of day.