HOW DO YOU GET ON WITH YOUR BROTHER?
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 and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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. (1 John 1: 6-7)
Amazing, isn’t it, that so much of Christianity today is about holding to the right doctrine, and not about living the right life! John was a Jew – and a practical man. He gives us a simple test for what He calls “walking in the truth”. How do you get along with you brother or sister in the Lord?
There are two words which John uses to describe the essence of God in a nutshell – light and love. He does not say that God is a light, or even that one of God’s attributes is light. He says that God IS light. What does he mean by light? He is not talking so much about physical light – although God is the source of light which includes physical light. He means that God is the essence of everything that is right, pure, and untainted with corruption or imperfection. God illuminates everything so that no imperfection of any kind can be concealed.
The second word John uses to describe God’s essence is “love”. God harbours nothing in His being that is detrimental to His creation, no animosity, impure motive or attitude that will adversely affect anyone or anything, regardless of their response to Him. His attitude towards His creation is positively good.
God’s essence is in perfect balance: He is good to everything He has made because He is love; He always does the right thing and acts with perfect justice because He is light. He cannot be anything else because He is holy – He is always true to who He is.
Those who do not know, understand or believe the true nature of God, attribute to Him the imperfections of human nature. Many reject God’s forgiveness because they do not understand His righteousness. God is light – He cannot sweep sin under the carpet, but He is also love – He could not ignore man’s plight. He is in perfect balance; therefore He made a way by sending Jesus to become a man, live a perfect life and die as a sinner in our place. It’s as simple as that.
But where does that leave us? I said that John was a practical man. God’s provision for us demands a response. He provided forgiveness for the whole world. There is not a single person who is excluded from returning to the Father and being restored to His family but – and this is where the great divide comes between those who are in the kingdom of God and those who are not – everyone must respond, individually and personally by receiving His forgiveness and coming back under His authority.
God effects a change in our hearts from hatred and enmity towards Him to trust, love and allegiance to Him. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in us as God’s temples, and exerts His influence to guide us along the way of God’s instructions. When we live in obedience to God’s word, we walk in the truth. Part of God’s requirement is that we love our neighbour as ourselves. That means playing open cards with our fellow men as we do with God, desiring and doing what is best for them.
John uses this as a test of our obedience to God’s way of truth, not do we believe the right things but how do we get on with each other? It’s no use claiming to be in fellowship with the Father if we have unresolved issues with His children. John says that’s lying, because fellowship with God and with one another go together. Fellowship implies that we have a common basis for living, allegiance to Jesus as Lord, and that we do life together. That is not possible if we harbour grudges, hide our issues and don’t live transparently with one another.
That certainly does not mean that we drag every little perceived hurt out into the open and make an issue of it. The problem, a lot of the time, is that we imagine things about the other person that are not true because we are self-absorbed. Why do we think that other people are always thinking about us – good or bad – or that they have ulterior motives when they say or ask something? That kind of thinking reveals our hearts, selfish – not theirs!
Paul’s counsel and the counsel of the New Testament writers is “live at peace with everyone; forgive as the Lord forgave you; be tolerant towards one another; love one another; give each other the benefit of the doubt; be honest with each other; don’t put on a show or wear a mask; don’t pretend to be who you are not.” This kind of attitude makes for harmony and shows that we are really walking in the light with each other and with the Lord.
We may slip up now and then but do the right thing – communicate. Admit you blew it and ask for forgiveness, Forgive quickly when another has offended you. The bottom line is – show mercy because you have received mercy. Another’s offence against you is miniscule compared with your offence against God, and He freely forgave you.
This is the acid test of fellowship – not adhering to the right doctrines but walking in the light with one another if you want to walk in the light with God. Take responsibility for your own life before you hold grudges against others. When we do that, we can be assured that the blood of Jesus will perpetually keep our hearts clean.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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