Monday, February 18, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for February 18

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked. (1 John 2:1-6)

We Christians often have a hard time with the word universal. We resist the idea that, in the end, salvation with be universal—that all, including all the worst humans of history, will be welcomed into God’s presence. We call that notion universalism, and a lot of battles are waged over it.

In 1 John, however, something universal is described: Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for sins. Not just for yours and mine. Not just for people who call themselves Christian. This sacrifice, we are told, is for the whole world.

For the whole world. That’s a universal claim.

But there’s a particular claim as well. John says that the ones who know Jesus, the ones who have embraced this new reality of forgiveness, will give evidence of their knowing by the way they live. He says that any claims to knowing Jesus that are not accompanied by followership are lies. Not misstatements, not slip ups, not misinterpretations, not just one valid religious opinion in a sea of others. Lies. Big, fat, lies.

It’s like the story in Luke 17 about Jesus healing the ten lepers. It was a universal healing—all ten cried out, all ten were healed. But only one in particular came back to thank Jesus and give praise to God (and he was a Samaritan!). He was the only one of the ten who could really claim to know Jesus, at least to the degree that he could. The others never came back. If they said they did, then they would be liars.

The problem, however, with the whole issue of claiming to know Jesus but not walking as he walked isn’t about all the people “out there.” The problem is with me. And maybe with you. I can claim all day long that I know Jesus, that I’m a follower of Jesus, and then shut my eyes and ears to the people around me, or continue my lousy behavior because I know that God is in the forgiveness business.

And when I close myself off to the hurting, the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the lost, I shut myself off to Jesus, because he is there with them. And when I quit walking with Jesus, no longer tracking his steps or trusting the path he’s on, then I become a liar.

God, forgive me. God, forgive us.

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