31See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he* is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
4. Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
A few years ago, Joel and I were driving to St. Joseph and a song I love came on the radio. I cranked up the volume and began to sing along (be glad you were not in the car with us). He got a strange look on his face and asked, “Is there something you’re trying to tell me?”
The song was Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” It’s a song about a woman who cheats on her husband, “I cheated myself; like I knew I would. I told you I was trouble. You know I’m no good.” (At the time Joel was living in Kansas City while the girls and I were living in Mound City—1.5 hours away)
I rolled my eyes at him and laughed, “of course not!”
It was funny but I remember a time when I felt the same way, that I was no good. I can’t tell you where that idea came from—I’m not sure. But for a very long time I believed that I was no good. I remember panicking right before Joel and I were about to get married. I tried to get him to break off the engagement because I was afraid that he would see who I really was. I was afraid, that I might end up being unfaithful just as I had seen some members of my family be unfaithful. When I listen to Amy Winehouse’s song, I remember those feelings. I can belt them out driving in my car and I am thankful that I know better now. That I am good, I am not doomed to repeat someone else’s mistakes.
This has come through my journey of faith. It is because of Christ Jesus that I know that I am worth more than I previously thought. I may not be “good” on my own—none of us are. But because of Jesus, because of God’s great love for us, we are worth more than we know. Through Christ we are made whole. Christ meets us wherever we are in our lives and loves us as we are but does not leave us as we are—we are transformed, changed into something more wonderful than we could ever imagine, into someone more like Christ.
This week as I listened to “You Know I’m No Good,” I thought about Amy Winehouse. She was a beautiful young woman with an incredible voice. She was also addicted to alcohol and drugs, caught up in an abusive relationship. She was a mess. I’d guess that she truly believed that she was no good.
I wondered how different her life could have been had she received a gift of grace; had been shown God’s love; had really experienced God’s assurance that she was more than what the drugs, alcohol, and abusive husband could take away from her. Had anyone told her she was more than her amazing voice? That she was a child of God and beloved? That grace could come in and heal her broken heart that was obviously desperate for something to fill the hurt.
The core of John’s message is that God is love. God is light. God’s love lights up the world. God’s love penetrates the darkness and overcomes it. We have been adopted as children of the light; as children of God. We are to take that light, that love and spread it throughout the world.
Sometimes though we get caught up in sin and the sin of self-righteousness; we get caught up in the darkness. We look for others’ sin and darkness, casting them out, pushing them aside. And we forget that we are children of the light—that we are to be like Christ. That Christ came not for those who were good but those who were desperately in need of saving, someone like me, someone like Amy Winehouse, someone like you.
We are to be bearers of the light—bringing God’s grace to those in need, those stuck in the dark. As we become more and more like Christ, we will feel the need to judge others less and less. This means that instead of sitting in judgment we reach out a hand—we help someone get out of an abusive relationship, we walk with them as they struggle to break the chains of addiction—we don’t push them further into the darkness.
Let us go into the world, sharing the light, the love of God. Let us be a witness to the Light.