<span style="font-size: 1rem;">Actually today is the day the church remembers St John the Evangelist, the writer of the Gospel, the three letters and Revelation. For those who like to know these things, there is a bit of debate about the order in which he wrote, when he wrote and to whom he wrote. Something to explore, should you wish.</span>
Letters in the Bible usually do two things. They encourage the recipients and they comment on the issues that particular community were dealing with. 1 John, our first reading, has lots of both but mainly the latter, the area of concern. John was concerned that some of the folk in church had gone off in a very odd and, actually, a very contemporary direction. Let’s have a look.
You will have heard someone say “I’m spiritual, not religious.” They mean by this that they are alert to how they feel, are concerned by the environment, moved by art in its widest sense, seek to live a good life and feel that organised religion is oppressive, rigid, judgemental, too narrow in its intellectual base and leads to us behaving as infants. John was writing to these people.
John starts off with life’s ‘big’ questions; creation, science, experience, wisdom. These are, or should be, things at the heart of a life well-lived. In other words, says John, we start a conversation recognising that we are on common ground. For John, the route into exploring these vital things is via Jesus, whom he calls elsewhere the source of life and light. Where he begins to diverge from his conversation partners is this; for John, this Jesus is one you can poke, have seen, can describe. This Jesus is a ’who.’ John is talking to people who have detached ’Jesus’ from history, from birth, death and resurrection, and turned him into an ethereal thing, unsullied by the realities of life. And, so the thinking goes, if he is unsullied, then we, the ’special ones,’ must be equally sin-free.
Which brings us to sin. Not ‘mistakes,’ or ‘minor errors,’ but old fashioned sin. John asks the readers to be honest about life rather than pretend that they are super special and sin-free. The solution to sin, to the reality of being human, says John, is Jesus. Engaging with all those other important issues without being honest about yourself is limiting the potential for truly changing our world.