Sin and the Children of God
Sin and the Children of God
Readings: 1 John 3:7-10; Psalm 98:1, 7-8, 9; John 1:35-42
No one who has been begotten by God sins… (1Jn 3:9)
Our first reading continues to deepen our reflection on the distinction between those who acknowledge and those who deny Christ’s coming in the flesh. In very strong language, the former are described as children of God and the latter as children of the devil. The lives of the former are holy, just as the latter are sinful. And this is as it should be, since those who follow Jesus, those who remain with him, as the first disciples do in today’s gospel, have already found what they are looking for. They have already been called out of darkness into the light of God’s only begotten Son, just as it is our belief that those who have been baptized have already been irrevocably marked with the sign of faith.
Yet we must not let this important already aspect of the story of our salvation lead us to neglect the no less important ongoing aspect. Do not, for example, even the great saints continue to speak of their own sinfulness? Do not even very holy people continue to participate regularly and frequently in the sacrament of reconciliation? Did not the first disciples of today’s gospel continue to struggle with their own weaknesses even in the days following their initial calling? And earlier in the very same letter of John do we not also find the following?
If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to acknowledge the truth… (1 Jn 1:8)
Clearly, although we are already the children of God, this is not something that we can take for granted. To be a child of God is also a continual process, an ongoing journey out of darkness into the light. It is a continuing struggle against the sinfulness that is within us as much as with that which is without.
If this is true, what is important for us is not so much where we are on this journey – whether we have only just been converted to Christ, or whether we have been traveling with him for a long time – but the direction in which we are going. What is more important is that we continue to stay with Jesus, as the first disciples did, even when the road leads into a dark valley, even when we find the going strenuous, even when thick fog might obscure our vision. And as long as we keep on going, our salvation is as secure as the rock after which Peter is named. And not only our salvation, but also the salvation of those whom we bring to Jesus as Andrew does today. For this Rock is none other than Christ, the stone rejected by the builders which has become the corner-stone of our salvation (cf. Mark 12:10).
This Christmas, how are we being called to persevere in following Christ, in staying with Him, as the first disciples did?