John explains twice in his first epistle his purpose for writing. The chief purpose is found in 1 John 5:13, where he explains that he wants his readers to “know” beyond any doubt that through their faith in Jesus, they have eternal life. The Catholic translation, Douay Rheims Version, says that John wants his readers to “realize” that they have eternal life. Either way, it expresses a certainty that John wishes his readers to have. I’d argue that the second purpose that John states in his letter is directly related to his first one. In 1 John 1:4, he wants his readers to join him and other believers in the joy that comes from knowing Jesus and having our eternities secure. After expressing his desire to share the joy that comes from knowing Christ in this way, John tells us that Jesus makes all the difference in the world. It’s like light and dark. In John 1:5, he says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

 Living in the dark is living with our minds fixed on the things of the flesh. It’s only the here and now that matters. We are just an accident of time and space and matter and have no more ultimate purpose in life than a dandelion. We’re just one of the, albeit higher, stages of the evolutionary process. All of our appetites, therefore, crawl along the ground. We only care about the physical world and the pleasures of the flesh. John will refer to the distractions being the world, the flesh, and the devil. In Genesis 3:14, God cursed Satan by, saying, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.”  It appears that most people live in the darkness. They follow Satan whose appetites are all bound to the earth. They crawl along on their bellies and eat the produce of the earth instead of the heavenly food of Jesus Christ. He came to feed us just as the Israelites at Mana from heaven, Jesus is the food that came down from heaven and gives us true life. Whoever eats his flesh will never die. I’m arguing that denying our eternal existence is living or walking in darkness. The light of life, Jesus, gives us an eternal perspective. As Peter says, “through of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we have a living hope.”

Living with the certainty of eternal life is to live in the light. When this reality enters into our reality, there is no place for darkness. William Barclay suggests that darkness has many sides to it. He suggests that darkness stands for the Christless life. In Christ is eternal life, in the dark is only the flesh and the now. God has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his dear son. Darkness, as Barclay puts it, “is hostile to the light.” The pull on us to live in the moment, to respond to the lusts of the flesh, are serious distractions from living life in the light of our eternal natures. Darkness is to live in ignorance. Jesus said that the one who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Darkness is also the chaos of life without God. Without God’s light shining out in all of its glory in the person of Jesus Christ, our lives do not have order, design, purpose, or meaning. It makes no sense at all. Darkness is living as a slave to the impulses of the flesh. We are incarcerated by the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and the lust of the eyes. Paul tells the Romans that the natural man loves the works of darkness because their deeds are evil. They love the darkness and despise the light. They seek the shadows because they cannot stand the light of the glorious nature of God as demonstrated in Jesus. Darkness in unfruitfulness. If growing things are deprived of the light, their growth is retarded. No fruit of the spirit can be produced in the darkness.  Further, “The darkness is connected with lovelessness and hate. If a man hates his brother, it is a sign that he walks in darkness (1 John 2:9–11). Love is sunshine and hatred is the dark.”[1]

[1] Barclay, William, ed. 1976. The Letters of John and Jude. Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.