It is the common thread through every epic story, through each narrative: There are two powers and they are at war. There is good and evil, love and hate, darkness and light.
Think of Star Wars: the dark side and the light side. Think of Lord of the Rings: Sauron versus the Fellowship of the Ring. The same theme is in ancient literature throughout the ancient Near East and Jewish world, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls’ community who envisioned themselves as the “sons of light” who would one day fight Rome, whom they viewed as the darkness. But in this dualism, where everything is polarized, there are a few truths missing.
To see what I mean, let’s venture into 1 John, which uses similar light and dark language, but in a different way.
In 1 John 1:1–4, John tells us that God has come in flesh as Jesus. John says that he is an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry; this makes the letter we’re reading deeply personal.
John then uses darkness and light language, saying that he has heard from Jesus that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Thus anyone who claims to know Jesus must walk in this light, confessing his or her shortcomings. Living in the truth that we are sinful and flawed, and completely dependent on Christ, is key to our relationship with God and with other people (1 John 1:6-10). There is wrong in all of us.
This is the first truth that should confront the dualistic, two powers myth that is so common in culture: light and darkness are not polarized in us humans, but instead we each have both good and evil in us. We are incapable on our own of living in the light without Jesus.
This is where 1 John 2:1-2 (NIV) comes in [the beginning of our focus passage for today]:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
This is the second truth: it is Jesus’ “atoning sacrifice for our sins” that makes us right before God. And the invitation to enter into relationship with God, because of what Jesus has done, is available to everyone, to “the whole world.”
But this isn’t a grace to be taken for granted; it is God’s wish that we “will not sin.”
This is the third truth that should confront the common dualistic, two powers myth: God has come into the world to bring light, in Jesus, and that light can change our very lives. It frees us from sin. God wants you to be free from sin.
This is the end of part 1. Part 2 will be published tomorrow, so tune in for the rest.