At an event where I am speaking this week, I asked a gentleman I met about his kids. He replied with a casualness that shocked me, “My first two are alcoholics, then I have one in high school and this here is Christian.” Christian looked to be about 7 years old. I marveled at this man’s casual candor, not to mention calling his first two kids alcoholics in front of their 7-year-old younger brother who didn’t flinch, by the way. This must be just basic family knowledge. It wasn’t until I heard him talk about his kids some more and asked him to repeat what he had said about his first two, that I realized he had said they were “out of college.”
“Out of college.” Say it really fast in a noisy dining room and you can see how, with the right inflections, it could sound like “alcoholic.” Still, I must say that, even with the mistake, I was impressed with the first interpretation. My initial thoughts were, this guy is definitely walking in the light. He has nothing to hide. He and his family are an open book. He appears to have no pride, and no worry about his reputation. He certainly wasn’t trying to impress me. I wish I could be more like that.
Of course, later I found out that more than just being out of college, one was a doctor, and both had studied graduate school in Europe — these were impressive kids. But I can’t help but admit — no offense to this man and his wonderful family — that I liked them better as alcoholics. I liked him better admitting it.
Now of course this is all just to make a point. I’m not suggesting that the first thing you announce to strangers is how screwed up your kids are, but I am saying that it is refreshing to be honest, and that part of walking in the light, according to first John, is to tell the truth. That’s just what light does: it reveals. And when you do that, a wonderful thing happens; you realize you are in a roomful of equals — other sinners who need forgiveness — and that when you all come together in the light, you all get cleansed together and the joy that is released through that cleansing and that honesty is what real fellowship is all about.
The order of events is important here. First, we come to the light, second, we have fellowship (of course we do, because we see how much we all need forgiveness), and then we get cleansed … together. We’d like to mess with this order. We’d rather come to the light privately, like in a closet or something — get ourselves forgiven and cleansed, and then come out shiny, happy people for fellowship with all the other happy people. Punch and cookies in the fellowship hall. Not gonna happen. It just doesn’t work that way. That is not only dishonest, it is exactly what walking in darkness is all about. Walking in darkness is hiding. It’s staying out of the range of the light so no one can see what’s really going on with us. We say we have no sin, and we are all liars, and we make God out to be the biggest liar of all according to John (vs.10).
This is when saying you have sin sets you free. It sets you free from having to maintain the lie that you don’t. I didn’t say it; Jesus said it: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
Let’s face it: all of our kids are screwed up because of what they got from us. They are just following in our footsteps. We all need to walk in the light.