1My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you don’t sin. But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. 2 He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world. 3 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. 4 The one who claims, “I know him,” while not keeping his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this person. 5 But the love of God is truly perfected in whoever keeps his word. This is how we know we are in him. 6 The one who claims to remain in him ought to live in the same way as he lived.
Obviously, we are going to sin. We wish that were not the case, but as humans we are going to sin. We needed Jesus to intercede as our sacrifice so we would not need to continue to follow the ritual of animal sacrifice, but what does it look like to keep God’s commandments? Didn’t Jesus say love your Lord God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself? We find this in Luke 10 when Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan after the legal expert questions him about who our neighbors are. The Good Samaritan served another and was judged from outside for it. He used his own resources to care for another in need – ignoring the social mores of the day. It is truly an example of doing the right thing the right way for the right reasons.
I think when we first become Christians, the whole definition of sin can be difficult. Is it that we shouldn’t engage in certain behaviors or spend time with people who might be a “bad influence,” or any list of dos and don’ts? There can be lots of questions, especially if we are in a group of people who tend to be legalistic in their beliefs. Maybe early on, we want to do what’s right so that our “membership” won’t get revoked etc., because it is sometimes hard to truly wrap our heads around the concept of grace.
As we mature in our faith, however, we might be tempted to become complacent with what we do because we know we are forgiven. We can broaden our understanding about what we actually believe about sin and what we should or shouldn’t be doing and sometimes changing our values around that. That is what small groups and going out into the community and working with others who are not necessarily like us help us to learn. Things may not be as clear as what we once envisioned. With experience and knowledge, we learn that maybe things are not what they once seemed. Our belief system about people and people’s activities (including our own) changes as we have some experience in our world and with our relationship with God. I grew up going to several different churches and some had a more legalistic and fire and brimstone type belief. I just felt in my heart that some of the things they believed were just not for me. The one church I went to in high school would not have blessed my marriage to my then boyfriend, now husband, because he was Catholic, and their belief was that Catholics were idol worshippers because of the way they hold Mary in high esteem. God gives us the ability to know when something is right or wrong for us, but we need to look to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in prayer so that as Joe said on Sunday we can live by the Spirit to serve others and look at our own behavior and motives for doing it.
by Janet Waryck
For Pondering & Prayer
We have the core belief that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one, and Jesus sacrificed himself for us to be in relationship with God and have our sins forgiven. After that, what beliefs do we need to look at and challenge in our lives? Is it a belief we have about a group of people or about a behavior someone does, etc.? How can we study about others and challenge ourselves with those beliefs to be better able to serve others?
Prayer: God of Salvation, show us our belief or lack thereof. Guide us to change our beliefs if needed and to better help those around us. Amen.