But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.
I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. – 1st John 20-26
John writes to people grounded in a community of faith, a people that find the truth of God in the testimony received from one another and grounded in life together.
The letter moves and persuades people to a life together – a life characterized by brutal honesty with ourselves and each other. That honesty, as brutal as it can be, is not grounded in a desire to debase ourselves or frustrate or in an irrational trust. Instead, the honesty comes from the belief in what Christ has done and what Christ is doing.
He isn’t alone in placing this honesty within the context of community, and I think he is putting forward an idea of salvation as being part of that community.
Just verses before this, he declares that the presence of Christ is in the community, and now he’s talking about truth and abiding (i.e. living with). What are we to make of what he means then?
It must be that he sees the life together, the life in community, as essential to understanding and living out eternal life.
A lot of us grew up with notions of salvation that were very individualistic. I know I did. Salvation for me was something that was like a governors pardon from crimes. You committed crimes (sin) and then get forgiven at no cost for the asking, and that was that.
Salvation, sin, and everything else is reduced to make this image plausible.
John isn’t putting this forward in this passage. There’s so much more at stake when he starts writing to the people around the world that end up getting his letter. What’s at stake from him? No more or less than the promise of eternal life.
Sin for John is something that breaks our fellowship with God – so far we are in familiar territory – but it doesn’t end there. Anything that breaks our fellowship with each other is sin for John. Such acts break that break our fellowship serve to make us Anti-Christs (see last weeks post). Salvation, the truth here, is caught up with the healing of our relationship with God not just giving us a ticket to ride. Healing requires a change in direction but also a change in make up. We need to be returned to a community of healing, but we need to be healed to be brought into community.
Salvation then for John is about rescuing and redemption which is more like what we are used to, but it includes healing and particularly healing in community.
You get this emphasis on life or living together by the use of the word ‘abide’ and eternal life. And this life together carries the promise of being the precursor to taking on the gift of eternal life. The promise of God begins in the healing of God found in the community of faith – and is anchored in sharing the truth of Christ that enables us to speak the truth of ourselves.