We received some very good advice when our children were little. The recommendation was, instead of telling them what not to do, tell them what to do instead.
Saying, “don’t touch that”, puts the focus on the negative. Saying, put your hands here and here when you approach this, is a positive and puts the focus on what to do.
I use this approach every day. It is a core part of my work and how I lead others. It is a central part of my teaching. It is a major influence in working with kids (of all ages). I even use it with myself.
Above my bathroom mirror, I have a 3×5 card of “insteads” paraphrased from Og Mandino. Things like, if I’m feeling depressed, sing; if I’m feeling sad, laugh; if I feel afraid, trust in God’s power; If I feel poor, give thanks for blessings…
So, what is the instead to sin?
John answers that in this letter. The opposite of “to sin” is “to love”!
God is love. Love God, Love Jesus, Love the Holy Spirit, Love each other, Love Jesus and the Spirit within us. Love our brothers and sister and God in them. Love the community of believers.
Yes, we walk in a world filled with lies and lusts and prides and false teaching. But the focus of our walk is not on avoiding the darkness, it is staying in the light. It is walking in love. It is letting our Lord carry us when we don’t have the sight to see the path. It is remaining, abiding, living in Christ and becoming holier, fixed, repaired, transformed, more and more every day. It is praying and reading and speaking the Word.
Great love of God lavished on us, called children of God. When Christ appears we shall be like him, purified as he is. This helps because we do not have strength on our own to not sin or be cleansed of past sins, but Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection provides the only hope of purification, to be made holy as he is holy. We are cleansed of sin by his work not ours.
Love one another because we have passed from death to life. We know true love because, in love, Jesus laid down his life for us. We in turn should be willing to lay down our lives (forgo personal gain) for our brothers and sisters and to keep God’s commands.
To (1) believe it and (2) to witness and profess it to others as the truth.