1 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. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:1–6 ESV)
I don’t like pietism. I don’t like sinlessness. I don’t like how church people use it, and frequently how it reads in scripture passages like this. “Do not sin,” the command comes. And yet, we still sin, and for some reason, that’s held against some of us.
Not by God, but by the church. By church people.
The striving is important. I grant that. The keeping of commandments — the effort expended in living as God invites us to live, to treat ourselves and to treat each other — is important. It’s important because it shows what it means to be faithful to God. To a God who has called us, and is faithful to us.
But this journey we take with Jesus, this journey through the wilderness to Jerusalem, to his triumphal entry, to his last supper, to his betrayal and arrest, his trial, and then his execution, this is journey is about so much more than being a good, virtuous, and pure person. It’s about following Jesus — about loving God, loving neighbors, loving enemies, meeting sinners where they are. Pronouncing forgiveness, yes, and telling them to sin no more.
But as John here notes, it’s about knowing Christ is our advocate, forgiving us, again and again, when we fall and when we fail. As we do. Constantly.
To walk in the way of Christ is to walk toward Jerusalem, knowing the same fate that befell Jesus may await us. Confident not only that Christ forgives our sins, but that he rose from the dead.
It’s also about knowing that abiding in Christ, and walking in his way, is about more than being good and pure. It’s about far more than living “above reproach.” It’s about preaching good news, forgiving sins, feeding the crowds, finding the lost, healing the sick, and casting out demons.
It’s also about suffering. And dying. To sin. To self. To the world. Because Jesus proclaimed the forgiveness of God to a world a great deal more interested in other things — power and glory and wealth and success.