Forgive me, dear reader, for imparting Scripture to you once again when I am sure you are quite capable of reading it on your own.
However, this passage from 1 John moved me in many directions at once as I read it aloud to myself this evening, hearing the words more fully than I would have had I read them silently. I needed to share it with someone.
I have always loved the writings of St. John, especially his Gospel and his first letter. In describing himself in his gospel as “the one whom Jesus loved”, John clearly felt very close to Him. I have often thought that everyone who encountered the Christ must have felt that he or she was “the one whom Jesus loved” – but perhaps only John had the courage to write of this experience so boldly.
As I read his letters, I imagine John as an old man, still longing to be sure that others understand the depth of this great love he has encountered, that his joy might be full in the sharing. He speaks as father (or grandfather) might to his children, with loving instruction and firm but gentle admonition.
What is so captivating about this passage is the rather poetic and enigmatic manner in which John tells us of God’s lavish love that has already made us His children, while at the same time informing us that anyone who sins has never seen or known God.
In the first movement, John has me rejoicing as child of the Father; in the second, I am panicking for I am a sinner who has never known Him.
John writes simultaneously of a hope that has not yet been revealed and of a hope fulfilled, of sin being abolished by Christ and of the need to purify ourselves. How can this be?
I am certainly not wise enough to explain it.* But it is true. As I live my life in history, I can only really conceptualize experience as what was before, what is now and what will be. I live in linear time.
John, the human being, was walking in linear time too when he wrote his letter. But he had also been given a glimpse into the eternal Now where all is accomplished, though appearing to the human eye to be unfinished.
Many when they hear of this notion imagine a pre-determined existence in which God is simply watching and waiting for the movie to play itself out until the end. Not so.
God doesn’t wait. In Christ, He entered time but became its Alpha and Omega, already its beginning and its end. As John wrote, “we shall see him as He really is” because God already is. None of His reality needs to move through time, to wait, to become.
His truth is always full and complete. His love is always full and complete.
Unchanging, He is. He has made us His children. He does not need to “wait” to see whether I will sin or make myself pure before He “decides”. His love is forever now and it is lavishly poured out upon us.
How could I not want to purify myself, “to try to be as pure as Christ”, in order to see the God who in my sinfulness I cannot yet see?
I do indeed “entertain this hope”. And so, once again, I take up the struggle, trusting all the while that I am His beloved child.