The Greek word used here is "Koinos". Its meaning is pretty obvious and straightforward. "Common, ordinary, belonging to generality; unhallowed, profane, Levitically unclean."
When looking at the word, however, a larger word came to mind. Many of us have even heard of this word, often used as a catchy name for a Sunday School or Small Group. The word, "Koinonia", meaning fellowship, community, joint participation, intimacy, etc. "Koinonia" comes from "Koinonos", which means partner, associate, comrade, or companion. "Koinonos" comes from "Koinos" mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Just looking at this two words then, it would seem "Koinonia" might not be a great thing to be involved in. "Fellowship of unclean"?
Then we go one step further to find out what the root of the word "Koinos" might be. The word "soon", which simply means "with". At the very root of all of this is a simple word that connects one thing to another. Not good or bad, simply offering a relational signifier.
So what does all this mean?
It makes sense now, that John doesn't simply say "unclean", but adds to it things like "anyone who practices abomination or falsehood..." which most of us would say belong to the category "unclean". But unclean doesn't seem to automatically have a very negative connotation, as noted above. "Unclean" may simply mean something that is "common, unhallowed, belonging to generality"...something that's not any different.
Even though that seems to soften the blow, it really becomes a much more urgent understanding. Many of us would raise our hands if asked "who here believes in Jesus Christ, and has accepted Him as Savior?" But do our lives look very different from the lives of those who haven't?
May we pray for God to continue making our lives "different". Not just wearing shirts that say Jesus, and praying before meals. But actually living differently than the world around us, even and especially when it's difficult. When is the last time we made a decision that felt like we were letting go of what we wanted, for what God wants?
May we live differently, love differently, celebrate differently,
and exist differently this week...in the name of Jesus.