“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
I love this verse! I have quoted it numerous times in recent years. But I have to admit that, of the two benefits of walking in the light, I have mostly focused my attention on the latter – “If we walk in the Light … the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” That’s a marvelous truth! It’s a wonderful comfort! And it is a strong inducement to, indeed, “walk in the Light” – to come out into the open about our sin, and to bring it to Christ in repentance and faith; to “confess our sins,” as John puts it just two verses later. If we do so, the blood of Christ will make us clean – “whiter than snow”, as David puts it elsewhere! So thank God for the second of the two benefits mentioned in our text!
But I haven’t always paid as much heed as I ought to the first of those benefits! I haven’t always given a lot of thought to the fact that “walk[ing] in the Light” – coming out into the open about our sin, and repenting of it – has an effect, not only on our fellowship with God (through the cleansing of our sin), but also on our fellowship with other people (and particularly, in the context of the verse, with other believers). But, though I haven’t always given much notice to this fact, it’s right there in the text, isn’t it? The verse doesn’t just say that “if we walk in the Light” we’ll be cleansed before God, but it also says that “if we walk in the Light … we have fellowship with one another” (emphasis added).
Well, consider the bitterness or frustration that can build up in relationships (yes, even between believers) when someone consistently refuses to simply admit when they have done wrong; when they regularly try and pull a curtain over their sin, desperate to keep it from coming into the full light – when they engage in cover-ups, or make excuses, or shift blame, or shade the truth, or posture things in such a way as to avoid having to simply say: ‘I was wrong. I have no excuse. It’s my fault. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?’ Have you experienced that? It’s mindboggling, isn’t it? And it can create breaches in our fellowship with one another. But, on the other hand, our text says that if we’ll just bring our sins out into the light, fellowship will be the result. Because, while we ought to forgive people even before they confess (and even if they don’t confess) … the reality is that, a proper confession actually seeks forgiveness … and very often finds it (especially in the Christian context from which John writes!). Furthermore, if we are honest about our sins, they can then be worked through, and moved past (both by ourselves, and others). And, in a truly Christian context, they usually will be! And, not only that, but honesty about our sin creates an atmosphere of reality and vulnerability in a church which lends itself to true fellowship, rather than to ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ Christian mask-wearing. And so “if we walk in the Light … we have fellowship with one another.”
Consider also the scenario where you yourself are hiding some sin in the darkness. You took something; you broke something; you fudged something; you lied about something; you were unfaithful to your spouse (whether through physical adultery, or persistent heart adultery). And you ought to make your sin known to the offended party, and seek to get things right … but instead you’re keeping it a secret. It can be miserable, can it not? And not only because you may find yourself walking around, laden with guilt. But also because that guilt can ramp up when you’re with the person you sinned against, and to whom you ought to confess. And so now, even if they don’t know it (and through no fault of their own), you are uneasy around them. Maybe you become emotionally distant from them, or even find yourself avoiding them. And fellowship is dampened … because you haven’t been willing to “walk in the Light”; you haven’t been willing to confess and seek forgiveness. But if you will come out into the open about your sin, not only will you gain the relief of no longer having to keep it hidden, but the person you’ve sinned against, once he/she has been made aware of your wrong-doing, now has an opportunity to forgive you for it – and he/she probably will (especially if he or she is among the believing “one another” of 1 John 1:7)! And fellowship will be restored! You’ll no longer have reason to be uneasy or distant!
So let’s rejoice in both benefits of 1 John 1:7 – in both cleansing and fellowship. And let’s allow them both encourage us to pull back the curtains, and to bring our sin out into the light.