1 John 2:28 (NRSV) And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.
By Chuck Griffin
Holiness is a churchy word meaning we behave as God would have us behave. It’s a difficult concept for people who resist or reject Christianity because they perceive conversations about holiness as evidence of God’s authoritarianism, or worse, a church’s attempt to control society at large.
The call to holiness you hear from God in Scripture and through Holy Spirit-inspired churches has nothing to do with such negative motives, however. We simply are being reminded to live in a way that should be a natural response to God’s overwhelming love, expressed most clearly in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.
A little after today’s text, in 3:6, John goes so far as to make a bold, flat statement: “No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.” The larger context of the letter helps us to understand the author is talking about ongoing, deliberate sin.
When we find ourselves asking, “Why am I still trapped in sin,” a good follow-up question might be, “How far have I strayed from God?” Odds are, we’re not truly abiding, gazing at him through our study of Scripture or leaning against him in prayer and worship.
John repeatedly refers to us as God’s children. Where are children the safest? Well, when they are near a loving parent, of course. It’s hard to get into trouble when you’re holding a parent’s hand.
In dangerous settings, even the slightest distance between child and parent can mean potential trouble. As good parents, we’re always trying to manage that distance, sometimes literally keeping our children on a short leash.
When our oldest child was beginning to move from toddling to real walking and running, we bought a springy little wrist tether so she would have more freedom to move when we were out in public. I still remember attaching the adult end to my left wrist and the complicated system of velcro and watchband-style straps to her right wrist.
Being spatially gifted, she studied her end for about five seconds and had it undone, proudly handing it back to me. I did the only thing I could do—I went back to holding her hand.
It’s good for children to have that desire to be independent from us. Ultimately, their instinct to go it alone makes it possible for them to grow into independent adults.
Acting like independent-minded children in our relationship with God is a bad idea, though. We are not little gods, needing to pull away in order to grow. We instead are part of God’s creation, designed to abide in our creator for all eternity.
Lord, call us back when we resist our connection to you, and grow us into the kind of Christians who naturally and joyfully abide in your love. Amen.