By Michael Mendis
As a ministry, Gospel & Gaming has recently been studying the book of 1 John and seeing what the Lord has to teach us through this particular part of his word. As I started reading, this passage from the first chapter caught my attention:
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 cleanses us from all sin. 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 to forgive us our sins and to 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 1:5-10
The imagery of light and darkness is one of the most common themes in pop culture today (movies, TV shows, games); generally speaking, light is used to represent the forces of good, while darkness represents the forces of evil. The stark visual contrast between light and dark helps get the point across to the audience, but it’s a fairly simplistic way to use these images. As a result we often associate light not only with goodness but with perfection and absolute blamelessness. This passage from 1 John, however, touches on another aspect of this theme: specifically, light’s ability to expose, and darkness’s ability to cover up. The emphasis here is on sin and honesty: light is good because it exposes sin, and those who “walk in the light” are people who are honest about the sin that is present in their lives. Those who “walk in darkness,” on the other hand, are the ones who lie to themselves and to God, claiming that they are holy and righteous while covering up the brokenness within. This subverts our expectation of what it means to be in the light. Suddenly, being in the light doesn’t mean being perfect; rather, it means being honest about our spiritual condition. Therefore, the only one who can stand in the light and rightfully claim perfection is God himself; for the rest of us, standing in the light (and thus being in “fellowship with [God]”) requires us to admit that we aren’t perfect, and that we need God’s forgiveness.
One recent video game, Uncharted 4, captures this concept of honesty, deceit, and forgiveness very well. The Uncharted series stars Nathan Drake, an Indiana Jones-esque loveable rogue who travels across the world to discover treasure, fighting against power-hungry villains along the way. In Uncharted 4, Nate and his on-again-off-again love interest Elena Fisher have finally gotten married and settled down, buying a nice home and promising to one another that they won’t go on any more dangerous, life-threatening adventures in search of fame and fortune. Before long, however, Nate finds his old life calling out to him once again; an opportunity presents itself for him to go on one more daring journey to find long lost pirate treasure. Knowing that Elena won’t approve of it, he lies to her, and tells her that he has picked up a temporary job in Malaysia. In truth, Nate sets out elsewhere in search of the treasure. Eventually, after surviving several harrowing and dangerous encounters in his pursuit, Nate’s adventure leads him to Madagascar. To his surprise, Elena has figured out his lie, and has traveled out to confront him. Nate makes excuses, but Elena isn’t having it; she’s fed up with his dishonesty, and plans to head home without her husband.
Still unwilling to own up to his failure, Nate doggedly continues on his quest. Once again Nate finds himself in danger with seemingly no way out. Fortunately for him, however, Elena hasn’t given up on him; instead of going home, she follows Nate and saves his life. It is at this point that Nate finally begins to fully open up about what he has been up to and why he hasn’t been honest with her. Elena admits that she almost didn’t come back him, and when he asks her why she ultimately did, she refers to the commitment she made to him as his spouse, the vow that she would stick with him “for better or worse.”
Here, in a video game, we can see the power of the Gospel story and the beauty of being known by someone who loves us. Just as in a human marriage, where honesty and communication about the things we struggle with is essential to a healthy relationship, it is important that the church, the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:29-32), be open with its Savior. There is no tricking God; he already knows the depth of our sin, and he knows it better than we do. If he wanted to reject us, he never would have sent his Son to die for us in the first place. But he did, even while we still lied to him and to ourselves, and he pursues us time and again so that we will be honest with him, and thus restore the relationship. Do not be afraid to walk in the light, friends. True safety and acceptance come not from trying to hide the truth from God; it comes from letting him see us at our worst and accepting the unconditional love and forgiveness he offers to us.