This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. —1 John 1:5-7
In the past, whenever I would come across this verse, the quiet, unexamined assumption of my heart was that “walking in the light” had something to do with behaving well. Correspondingly, walking in darkness had something to do with behaving badly.
But that’s not it at all.
Walking in the light has nothing to do with perfect behavior and everything to do with being known. Walking in the light means that we are willing to be known for who we really are (warts, sin and all). It doesn’t mean we have perfected morality, just that we have stopped hiding.
Walking in darkness means we are still hiding, pretending, putting on airs, attempting to be seen in a certain way, presenting an image that doesn’t reflect the inner reality of our hearts. Walking in darkness is the result of submitting to shame. It means we think we cannot afford to be known for who we really are because we fear rejection, punishment, abandonment. Appearance is everything for those walking in darkness.
Darkness helps keep reality hidden. And we keep reality hidden because we fear that we need to perform well to be accepted. (Isn’t this the message many of us grew up with?) So we try to appear better than we actually are in an attempt to find acceptance and value from God and other people. Ironically, it never works, because the only way to actually walk with God is to walk with him in the light.
The good news is that we actually can be known for who we really are, because our acceptance is not based on our performance, it’s based on God’s love for us. Walking in the light isn’t something you have to “work up” to, because it isn’t about becoming awesome at life, it’s simply about letting reality be known. Coming into the light, willing to be seen, willing to be known. Walking in the light means actuality over appearance.