I don’t know about you, but I am pretty disappointed in the leadership here in this country. We have a dearth of leadership in our Political Leaders, and what is even more disappointing is that we have a lack of leadership in our church.
We have seen the recent conviction of the former Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide for failure to protect children, and in the Anglican church we have seen leader after leader castigated for their lack of leadership with respect to their failure to protect children. We see that at least one Bishop resigned, and others are now being investigated for possible sanction by Professional Standards. Not only is all this a failure of leadership, but it is a failure of showing to the world the true nature of God, and for it to occur from the top shows how rotten much of the church structure, and our society has become.
Why has all this happened? One of the clues is given in 1John. In this very important letter to the early church John is encouraging his people to be faithful to the message of God in Christ Jesus because when the community of faith is being faithful to the message of Jesus we are able to show to the world who Jesus is and this who God is. We become the face of God. The world sees, and perceives who God is by looking at the church community of faith. When the church gets it right we succeed in that endeavour, and when we get it wrong, then we fail not only God, but the community looking to us to discover who God is.
In 1John 1:5 the author writes, “This is the message we have heard from him, that God is light and in him there is no hint of any darkness at all.” This verse sets up the principle by which the following verses are to be understood. Light is the realm of God, and Darkness is the realm of everything that is not Godly. The light enlivens, shows us the way, and encourages. The darkness dulls the senses and draws us into a delusion about who we really are. (For further exposition see my sermon HERE.) In verse 6 John writes, “If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.” What John is saying, is, if we proclaim that we are the people of God, or representing God, or his realm and yet we do what is really the realm of darkness, then we are liars, and we are not doing the truth. In her commentary on the Epistles Ruth B Edwards says of not doing the truth, that it is not acting loyally to God. Religious leaders and indeed anyone in the Christian church who claims to be representing God needs to walk in the light, otherwise they are not acting loyally to God and His character. Walking in the light means that our speech and our actions will be consistent with God’s character. How do I know that I am walking in the light? My speech and my actions will be consistent with each other, and I will behave in a manner that shows I am in right relationship with God and with one another.
Those leaders who have failed us have failed in this manner, their speech and their actions are not consistent with what they profess, especially the church leaders. However, before we condemn them heartily let us remember one very important point. That is, that the only place our nation and our church can get their leaders from is from within the community and the community of faith. This is where we are. In other words it is possible that we too can be called to leadership and therefore it is incumbent on us that we too heed the words of John. Do we say one thing and do another in our daily life? Are our actions inconsistent with our profession of who we are and what we stand for? Do we say we walk in the realm of God, but really we are walking in the realm of the one opposed to God? Etc, etc. If this is the case, then are we not just as bad as those whom we shake our heads at and wag our fingers at and say “Tut, tut!”
I find myself in great difficulty here because I recognise that I too have walked in the dark while professing to walk in the light. I have therefore not always acted loyally to God and have failed to present an accurate portrait of the face of God to the world I seek to engage with. My proclamation and my actions are not always consistent, and I find myself in great grief over this reality. Walking in the light is difficult, hard, yet it is right way. Jesus said that the road to heaven was narrow and difficult, and the way to hell wide and broad. While it would seem that walking in the light was the easiest way we find that it is the most difficult, and walking in darkness instead of being difficult is the easiest. However, when we become what we say we will find that people will be drawn to us, because in the end, despite the ease of walking in the darkness we are drawn to the light. So let us truly walk in the light as God is in the light, let us be drawn to him, and in being drawn to him, draw others to him as well. In doing this we will manifest the true face of God to the world that needs to see who God really is, and in seeing, they may believe and be saved.