These words — “whoever claims to live in [God] must walk as Jesus does” — are extraordinarily convicting. I hear people speak of walking as Jesus does, claiming to be without sin and I just sit and wonder. What sort of person believes they are without sin? Who can look in a mirror and genuinely say to the reflection: “Yes, I always walk as Jesus walks.”?
I hear non-Christians speak of the need for Christians to stop worrying about others’ sins and focus on living like Jesus intends us to live. Inside, I hear a soft ‘amen’ to the non-Christian comment, and to the Christian who claims to be sinless, I hear in my head a big ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’
So, what is the author of 1 John saying?
He writes that our aim is perfection. We seek to be perfect because our Heavenly Father is perfect. We strive after holiness the way a runner strives to reach the finish line. Paul speaks of winning the race, but I think finishing the race is the win he means. The author of 1 John is delineating the goal in greater detail. Our goal is to love one another perfectly because Jesus loves us perfectly. If we claim to love Jesus, how can we then hate our brother, for whom Jesus died? The author is not saying that we never fail, or that we reach that total perfection here on this earth. Rather he says:
“My dear children, I write this so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)