My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1 John 2:1 NASB
May not sin – Either John was delusional or he was the greatest simpleton the world has ever known. How could he possibly imagine that simply writing these words of advice would make us capable of not sinning? Didn’t he know that every human being sins every day in word, thought and deed? Didn’t he comprehend the enormity of the effects of the Fall, defacing our intellects, our wills and our emotions? How could anyone be so unaware of the great burden of the Law? When you read this verse, you must shake your head in disbelief! It just couldn’t be so simple.
Before you allow thousands of years of Augustinian-Luther depravity to shape your understanding of the text, notice John’s actual words. First, he addresses us as teknia. He does not expect to deliver sophisticated theological texts of intricate arguments concerning harmartiology or tomes of ethical definitions and exact behavioral prescriptions. Adults might be able to handle just volumes, but not teknia. Children need simple instructions, instructions that they can actually understand and do. Fathers do not hand children instructions manuals for flying Cobra attack helicopters. Fathers give children remote control toys with “Up,” “Down,” “Forward” and “Backward” levers.
Put aside the hundreds of lessons you have heard about how complicated it is to live righteously. Put away all those sermons that taught you to believe you could never actually do all that God wanted you to do. Scratch out every mistranslation of sarx that reads “sinful nature.” None of that fits John’s context. Or Moses’ for that matter. “These things are not too difficult for you nor are they too far from you.” Torah is easy. It’s clear. It’s direct. It’s simple. And doing Torah produces righteousness. John writes that we might not sin. That means he must think it is entirely possible to follow his instructions. Is that what you hear him saying?
Oh, yes, John also recognizes that sometimes, occasionally, every once in awhile, we mess up. If anyone sins, not when everyone sins. Sin is to be the exception to the rule. Once in awhile a child can’t quite get the hang of it and the remote control helicopter crashes. But, not to worry, just pick it up and go again and pretty soon that little child is flying around the helicopter like he was born to it.
Then it’s time to move up to the big boy toys.
Topical Index: sin, children, amartete, 1 John 2:1