“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.”(1 John 2:28)
What exactly does it mean to abide in Christ? Is it to do what He says, to continue to believe in Him, to tolerate Him, or is it to remember Him? If we look at the New International Version of the Bible, we are told to “continue in him”. The Orthodox Jewish Bible says that we should “remain in Him”. So we have three translations using three different words that can affect our perception of what 1 John 2:28 says to us. Hence, as we look at scripture, each of us with our own translation preference, we can perhaps come out of this passage with a similar, yet a little different understanding of the message that the Apostle John was trying to share with us.
If we went around asking people what it means to abide in Christ, chances are that we would get similar answers to the question. However none of the answers would be exactly the same. I guess our answers would be similar to the answer we would give Jesus if He came before us today and asked, “‘but who do you say that I am?’”(Luke 9:20) Our answers, although similar, would differ based on our own understanding of Jesus. Our answer would be personal.
Such is the way in which God reveals Himself to His people; in a common unifying and undeniable way, but at the same time in a personal manner. One revelation serves as a template or framework from which each person can start or work off from, while the other revelation comes only after each person seeks guidance from Christ intimately. The broader communal understanding that is revealed to the Church serves as a guardrail that keeps us from perhaps justifying ourselves when confronted by the deeper revelation that we experience as we relate to Christ Jesus.
So while we should place great importance in our personal relationship with Jesus, we have to make sure that our personal relationship with Christ is tempered with sound Church teaching. We have to make sure that our personal relationship with Christ does not become our own individual, self directed relationship with Christ. Otherwise we run the risk of self justification. Self justification, of course, is perhaps the worst enemy that we can encounter as we journey on to Heaven. Telling ourselves that what we are doing against God isn’t so bad or that it is somehow mitigated is the biggest obstacle that we face when it comes to letting Christ transform our life into His image. Unless we let Christ transform us I dare say that we are not abiding in Him.
I guess we can say then, that abiding in Christ requires us to have an honest and constant personal relationship with Him; and that to keep our relationship honest and constant we have to look to the Church in order to help us understand what the Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals to us. We can seek the guidance of the Church by attending services at a local church or parish. We can read books from different Church leaders. We can listen to sermons on the radio and online. The opportunities to connect with the Mystical Body of Christ are essentially endless. Nevertheless, whatever you learn from your pastor and other church teachers or fellow Christians needs to be brought with you whenever you come before Christ. In that way, you can honestly examine your conscience in order to determine if you are following the Lord Jesus. If you are not, then with the guidance of the Holy Spirit you can take the proper action to correct your erring ways. In that way you can “abide in him, so that when he is revealed [you] may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.”(1 John 2:28)