I recently met the brother of a good friend of mine. As he approached me, before he introduced himself, I shouted, “You must be Kyle’s brother!” Even from the other side of the room, the family resemblance was unmistakable. We can spot family members because they share common characteristics. In chapter one of 1 John, the apostle identifies three traits shared by those in God’s family. John says they listen, walk, and confess.
First, those in God’s family listen.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
To enter God’s family, we must listen to the apostolic message about Jesus. This was true when the apostles were alive, of course, but it’s still true today. God calls His people through his word, found in Holy Scripture. We enter through the ear, if you like. Eyewitnesses of the Light recorded what they saw and heard so that others, in later times and places, might also know the light.
Second, those in God’s family walk.
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
It’s not enough to hear God’s word; we must act upon it. It’s always easier to hear God’s word than to obey it. To rightly receive God’s word, we have to adopt a peripatetic posture. We can’t just talk the talk; we have to walk the walk. If he is light, we have to leave the darkness behind and walk with him. We now love those things we used to hate, and we hate those things we used to love. Thankfully, the Spirit of Christ enables us to do this seemingly impossible task!
Third, those in God’s family confess.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Walking the walk doesn’t mean being perfect, of course. One thing that distinguishes believers from unbelievers is the ability to confess sin and find peace. Within the Church, we should sense this family trait of confession. Of course, as we follow the prayer book, we have opportunity to confess our sins each day. As Jon Andrew said, “Anglicans begin morning prayer always with confession. It’s as if we are saying, before we point the finger at others, that we are the problem.” Confession creates fellowship in an atmosphere of humility. None of us has it all figured out. We all hear the word and walk the walk; nevertheless, we stumble as we do so. Thankfully, we have a Savior who stands ready to hear our confession and offer grace upon grace!
Pastor for Faith Formation at All Saints Anglican Church in Downtown Dallas, TX.
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the
earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those
who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people
everywhere may seek after you and find you, bring the nations
into your fold, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten
the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.