Scripture: 1 John 1:1-10
Key verse: (8) “If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
Reflection: Calvinists in general, and Presbyterians in particular are known for what some see as our obsession with sin. One of the hallmarks of Reformed theology is the concept of total depravity—that every person, every institution, even creation itself is distorted by sin. This is not a very cheery doctrine. Nor does it do much for us in attracting younger people to the faith. Many contemporary expressions of church really don’t talk that much about our sinfulness. Let’s be honest; it’s a real downer! Yet according to the Bible, not to mention our experiences of life in this world, it’s absolutely true. In response to this truth, we Presbyterians confess our sin together every week.
However, sin is not the final word about us, nor is it the first word. The first word about us is that we created in the image of God and declared “very good.” Then sin distorts who we are created to be. That’s true for all of us. But it’s not the ultimate truth. It’s not the final word. The final word about us is redemption.
1 John 1 reflects this truth. The letter begins referencing “the word of life,” and the joy that word brings us. That’s the first word. Then we get a very honest assessment of the reality of sin. Today’s key verse is often used as an invitation to confession in more traditional worship settings. The invitation continues with v. 9: “If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I’ve never heard anyone employ v. 10: “If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his word is not in us.” That’s a bit more pointed!) But this moves us toward forgiveness and cleansing, toward redemption. Reading the rest of the letter we will learn of the call of the redeemed, to live out love.
Our worship services are designed to reflect this same reality. We begin with praise of God for the gift of life. Then we confess our sin together. Then we are ready to hear God’s word and to respond to God’s call. Confession is not what our worship is all about, it’s a means to the end of redemption and faithful living.
So it is with us. If we can’t be honest with ourselves about our own sin, then we will miss the joy of redemption and living the faithful life.
Prayer: I thank you, O God for the gift of this day. Thank you for the gifts you have given me in my life. Forgive me for all the ways I fall short of who you have created me to be. Free me from that sin that I may live into the fullness of life you will for me, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].