This passage struck me a little differently this time through. We can say that we are walking with Him, and yet be walking in darkness. This has been recently illustrated to me by events in my own life.
As some of you know, I am currently a student pastor and have recently had opportunity to provide some of the fill in for my pastor and official mentor while they are on sick leave. I wish I could tell you that has been smooth, but it is regrettably not the case. I have recently come to see that 51 years of living in the world has indeed left its mark on me. I have had a preview of the darkness in my own heart, and just how easy it is to walk in that darkness. It is only the grace of a loving God that has brought this to my attention, of all things, through conflict.
I tell everyone that I hate conflict and that I run from it. I don’t like it when people are angry at me, all that. This past weekend, I have discovered just how much of a lie that is. I don’t run from it at all. I seek it. I crave it. I incite it. All so that I can either put someone in their place or so that I can gain the praise from my fellows. Or both. Guess which one of those actions is walking with the Lord? If you said “neither,” give yourself a high five, you’re right.
Don’t get me wrong. I had to take a stand with an individual. Someone has had to for about 6 years, and I have recently been put in a position where it has to be me. And I didn’t put him in his place, the Lord did. But if I’m being honest with myself, there was secret joy at that result. What happened to those verses about not rejoicing at the downfall of one’s enemies? Apparently they snuck out the side door while I was otherwise engaged.
What triggered my realization was an email response to a question I had to a group said individual was a part of. I must have missed in his email that next week is in fact Pentecost, and so I asked, “Hey, isn’t this coming Sunday Pentecost?” I already knew I am preaching, so I didn’t ask about that. His reply to the group was designed to make me look stupid and incompetent, while building up another individual by comparison. I believe this kind of thing is known in Scripture as backbiting, and showing a party spirit.
The thought occurred to me, “And just how are you any different?”
I have done the same thing on multiple occasions. I have run my own agenda this way without realizing it for decades. This is called, “walking after the flesh.” As long as we want to run our own little terroristic campaigns of character assassination and harassment, we cannot say that we are walking in the light, or walking in the Spirit, or putting on the new man in Christ. And when we realize that this is where we are spiritually, make no mistake – we need to repent. Fortunately, we have an advocate with the Father.
1 John 1:9 says:
…if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
The cure? It is the same thing that justifies us before God – the sacrificial blood of Jesus. How is it applied? The same way as when it happened the first time – repent and believe. As Christians, or “little Christs,” as the original usage in Antioch, we are given the ability to choose what is right and good. We can be sanctified, or made holy by our choices to do God’s will and not our own. As we choose His will over ours, we are transformed in our minds, and therefore our characters (see Rom. 12:2).
Someday all our sin nature will be finally removed in some way we do not currently understand. But until then, we are to experience the hardships sin in the world cause us with joy, understanding that this is nothing but God giving us opportunity to practice Christian faith and love. It isn’t easy.
Our only alternative to this is to continue with our own agendas and manipulations to see our own will and desires imposed on people. Believe me when I say that it won’t work out well for us in the end if we lie to ourselves and claim righteous standing, all the while scheming, harassing, and bullying our own way along. Consider King Saul. He didn’t end well.
Let us end better.