“Whoever says, ‘I am in the light,’ while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness.” — 1 John 2:9
There are a lot of these “Whoever says” sayings in the literature of John, and I dig it. This morning, the quote above from the First Letter of John paired nicely with a verse (or several) from Proverbs 17.
In the Proverb, we are told “one who spares words is knowledgeable,” and “even fools who keep silent are considered wise” (verses 27-28). It seems a lot of the advice in Proverbs centers on shutting up more often than speaking up, which, with today being a major family holiday in the U.S., could actually be helpful!
No doubt, if you are gathering with lots of family or friends (whether today or ever), you know that it would probably be easier and of better quality if certain people just didn’t speak. Maybe you’re that person (no offense, but if the table plunges into silence after your “joke” about another race, religion, or political party, it’s YOU). All in all, silence can be a handy tool of faith, not just on these holidays when we are thrust into familial settings, but all the time!
Look at John’s “Whoever says” comments in 1 John 2:1-17. John seems rather hesitant to believe what people say, especially about their own fathfulness. Further, he is encouraging his audience to be just as skeptical.
For me, it’s sort of nice to see that this has always been a problem. People speak up, make signs, and outwardly promote their own strengths of faith and character… But their lives and who they are when no one is watching do not match the appearances at all. This is SO evident in the Church, it hurts.
Part of that pain is knowing I have been a part of the problem. Sure I preached faithfulness, but I definitely did not tend toward practicing that faithfulness in many aspects of my life. I am currently in a position to address and heal from that, but the fact remains that most people who promote themselves outwardly are compensating for some serious sinfulness inwardly. We all have our hypocrisies. You know it. I know it. God knows it. If we can admit that (see last night’s post), however, we can move away from that practice, and a lot of it begins with just being quiet and doing what we are called to do.
John has some great advice to glean when he says, “Whoever says, ‘I am in the light,’ while hating a brother or sister, is still in the dakness” (1 John 2:9). While “brother or sister” pertains to fellow believers in the text, I don’t think John would object to me expanding the meaning to include all people whom God has made. We can’t say we love God or are walking in faithfulness to God if we actively (or passively) are defined by emotions and actions that express hatred or lack of concern for those made in the image of that same God!
If we are going to be faithful, it must begin with the real, personal practice of faith in the moments where no one will see or know. This is where I have failed before, and I bet you have, too. We must resolve to develop the habits of faithful love for ourselves and for (ALL) others internally before we can begin to externally direct our energies.
This means when we see or hear something that would normally have us jumping mercilessly down the throats of others, perhaps we stop and think about whether or not what they are doing or saying is comparable to any facet of our own lives. Maybe we let the hate or foolishness speak for itself this time around, and reserve our judgments for a more opportune and wisely discerned moment. Maybe we take that experience home with us and change how we handle our business first.
***Disclaimer: If you witness a hate crime or bullying, yes, get involved to put a stop to it. Call the cops, make your presence known so that there are witnesses, etc. Don’t just stand there with your phone out or enter into this philosophical meditation before helping someone; just be sure your involvement is geared toward help of the victim, not punishment of the assailants. As always, be safe.***
There comes a time when we have to just stop talking and start (or keep) walking. We are in a world with so many voices, and so much deception, that genuine faith is really going to have to be something personally and communally lived and enacted, not just “promoted.”
As we enter into the holidays (and the rest of our lives, really), let’s go forward seeking to actually live the love of Christ for others, and not just talk about it. Let’s DO something different so that we and others might experience something different.
As we all know, this world could use some “Godly difference.”
Peace be with you!