Pastor and writer Eugene Peterson had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Swiss physician and highly respected pastoral counselor Paul Tournier. Peterson had read the doctor’s works, and admired his approach to healing. The lecture left a deep impression on Peterson. As he listened, he had the feeling that Tournier lived what he spoke and spoke what he lived. Peterson chose this word to describe his experience: “Congruence. It is the best word I can come up with.”
Congruence—it’s what some refer to as “practicing what you preach” or “walking your talk.” The apostle John stresses that if any of us “claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister,” then we’re “still in the darkness” (1 John 2:9). In essence, our lives and our words simply don’t match up. John goes further to say such people “do not know where they are going” (v. 11). The word he chose to describe how incongruence leaves us? Blind.
Living closely aligned to God by allowing the light of His Word to illuminate our paths keeps us from living blind. The result is a godly vision that gives clarity and focus to our days—our words and actions match up. When others observe this, the impression is not necessarily that of someone who knows everywhere they’re going, but of someone who clearly knows who they’re following.
In what ways does the word congruence describe you? How can you grow to live a more consistent life?
Part of John’s purpose in 1 John is to address those who were stirring up controversy in the Christian community. The exact situation is uncertain, but John confronts it by urging the church to assess whether a person confesses the truth about Christ in both words and lifestyle (3:7–9). And the primary way to assess someone’s way of life is whether or not their life is filled with Christlike love (v. 10).
In the Bible “hatred” and “love” are not seen as primarily referring to an emotional reaction to someone or something, but to an attitude reflected in actions. John teaches that true love is sacrificial like Christ’s (vv. 16–18). Living with Christ’s love is possible because we live “in him” (2:5–6). Through the Spirit, Christ’s power and light shines in believers, filling them with His self-giving love (vv. 8–10).