Grace to you!
One of the most difficult and misinterpreted texts of Scripture is I John 3, especially, the portion that says those begotten of God do not sin (vs 9). How do we reconcile this bible verse with the fact that all are sinners?
In today’s reflection, I would love for us to think through this text. Use it as a tool for our prayerful contemplation. The first thought that comes to my mind is to understand what being begotten of God means. Yesterday, we sketched it a little bit.
Isn’t it to know ourselves as we are known? It’s being partakers in the divine life; being welcome into divine love and life, a pure and holy life. We witness the joy of the Lord. We see the glory. The apex is what is known in theology as beatific vision, to see God face to face.
Being begotten of God in Baptism, and being part of his body the Church, life in God has already begun here on earth, as Saint Paul says, “in a mirror dimly.” The fullness is yet to come. Isn’t it what we call God’s kingdom yet to come? Heaven is God. To the extent we are in God, to that extent we are in heaven.
Closer to God is closer to holiness since God is holy. Isn’t it in this sense we understand sin as the opposite of Godliness? Closer to God is farther away from sin.
Sin is the opposite of who God is and the life of God in us. So when Saint John says “No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9), it appears to me he says, insofar as we have the seed of God, and God’s life dwells in us, we can’t continue to sin since sin is the very opposite of God’s life. The two don’t go together, or do they?
The question, though, is: Do we, all the time, have God’s life intact in us while we are here on earth? Are we, like Mary, full of grace? Not at all.
If this is the reality, is the bible contradicting itself when I John 3:9 says those begotten of God do not sin?
John himself wrote at the beginning of his letter, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1;8-10).
Hence, there is only one who is just and holy—the Lord God. We all are sinners and our holiness, plus redemption, is related to God himself. Isn’t it why the saying is true, we have no holiness of our own? Holiness is God’s.
Thank God we have received the seed, to respond to divine invitation to be holy. Thank God, too, we have the sacrament of mercy, Confession, where we can be renewed and healed when we fall.
The Lord encourages us not to get comfortable with sin. Such a life isn’t the life of those begotten of God. Instead, he wants us to abhor sin, call “lawlessness” for what it is, since it’s opposed to God to whom we belong.
May God give us the grace to live the life of freedom of the redeemed. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu.
[1 Jn 3:7-10; Jn 1:35-42]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.