6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6 ESV)
After declaring and defining that one of God’s clearest characteristics is “light” in verse 5, John turns in verse 6 to an implication of this reality, of being in the light. It is the first of two that he provides in this paragraph.
John wants to highlight and contrast a contradiction between our confession, of being in fellowship with God, with our actual positional relationship with God. Now, it is important to maintain the argument John is making here. The power of the argument is that it forces us, as readers, to assess our own lives against the truth that John is bringing to bear. And what is that truth? It is that light and darkness cannot and will not coexist.
Let’s look at it more closely. John begins by asking, in the form of a conditional statement, where we stand. “If we say we have fellowship with [God],” this is our confession, “while we walk in darkness…,” this is the reality of where we stand. Now, it is important that we do not miss the contradiction here. The contradiction is that we are believing one thing and yet doing the opposite. It is not that we are just a little bit off. We must remember that John is using an undeniable contrast. When God is light and we are in darkness, we are left with an unbridgeable divide.
This is the problem and challenge John highlights. We are actively saying we are in fellowship with God while at the same time walking apart from him. What this means is that we are deluded and blind to the reality–and the danger–of our position.
Once we understand the conditions of our dilemma, we can better understand the conclusion that John draws. John says that when I, as an individual, exist in this state described I have two problems. First, I am a liar. Whether it is intentional or out of ignorance makes no difference. I have become a liar because my confession and my conduct do not agree. Second, and this may be more damning, I have physical evidence that I am a law-breaker because I am not “practicing” the truth. Every action I take that maintains the contradiction is another step toward bondage and away from freedom.
Whether I can see it or not, if I do not understand that the contradiction exists I may never be able to break free from the cycle. Only the light of the truth of the Gospel can release me from this blindness.
What we may not want to admit, and what may even be closer to the truth, is that we already know that the contradiction exists, but we are unwilling or unable to stop being liars and failures as practitioners of the truth. We must hear the truth and allow that truth to be the light that illuminates our way out from the darkness of sin.