Here is what the Readings for this week claim. By his cross, Christ conquered sin; by his resurrection, he destroyed death. At Easter, we celebrate his victory with joy.
The Second Reading affirms that Christ’s victory is ours. If we have faith that Jesus is the Christ, then we are begotten by God. If we are, then we conquer the world. And if we do, then we love God, we love the children of God, and we keep God’s commandments obediently. In that condition, we are victorious with Christ.
But these lines in the Second Reading look like joy-destroyers, don’t they? If we don’t keep God’s commandments, if we don’t love God’s children, we don’t conquer the world. And if we don’t conquer the world, then we aren’t begotten of God. And in that case we don’t really have faith. How do we have victory then?
And it gets worse.
In another place, the same Epistle says that anyone who says he doesn’t have sin is a liar (I John 1:8). So it seems that there is a Catch-22 here. If you sin, you aren’t victorious. You are a loser. But if you try claiming that you don’t sin, you are guilty of lying, which is a sin; and so you aren’t victorious in that case either.
It seems that whether you think you sin or think you don’t sin, you lose. So what happened to our victory? Where is joy?
The solution is to notice what faith is. Faith is the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the one who—the one who what? Well, the one who conquers sin and death.
So here is the message from the Readings. For our part, we are saved from sin and death by believing that we are saved from sin and death—by Christ. There is no Catch-22. Even in our sinful state, where truth forces us to confess our disobedience and our failures in love, we are victorious—over the sin and death in ourselves—as long as we believe that Christ won the victory for us.
This faith is what God requires of us, and the Second Reading is right: this requirement isn’t burdensome.
So here is our joy: As long as we believe that Christ won the victory for us, the victory of Christ is ours.