I John 2:7-11
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him [Jesus] and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Stylistically, John’s writing is full of dichotomous language. So far we’ve seen “light” and “dark,” “sin” and “righteousness,” and “truth” and “lies.” Today’s text introduces two more pairs of antithetical verbiage: “old” and “new,” and “love” and “hatred.” John begins the section with a rather confusing statement about a command christians are supposed to obey; a command that is simultaneously both old and new. It is the command to love one another, and it is as old as the gospel. It had been passed on to these churches right alongside the good news. But Jesus, with his life and death, illustrated that command in a startling new way. It was the way of self-sacrifice, withholding nothing–not even his own life–for the good of those he loved. And in so doing, he invested that old command with new depth and significance, setting the example for all his disciples to follow.
With this great expression of love, Jesus brought an end to the unchecked tyrannous reign of darkness and offered the chance of new citizenship in his kingdom of light. The citizens of that kingdom–like their Savior–embody his self-sacrificial love.
The false teachers believed they were citizens of this kingdom too. But they were blinded by their hatred of those who opposed them.* Their path was obscured though they didn’t know it; their sin had so thoroughly deceived them, that darkness seemed like light.
True Christians love their fellow citizens in the kingdom of light. Those citizens are their new family members. And though they may be guilty from time to time of angry outbursts and selfish behavior, they repent of those things and are not deceived by them. And though they may experience difficult relationships and conflict with dissimilar personalities, the defining characteristic of their lives is love toward their brothers and sisters.
And that Christian love is evidenced–like Jesus’ love–in hundreds of self-sacrificial acts. It’s biting your tongue when you’d rather lob a barb. It’s offering childcare when you had hoped for a quiet night in. It’s shoveling a driveway, cleaning a bathroom, and serving a meal. It’s cleaning up vomit (I literally JUST did this. And yes I’m patting myself on the back with dry and bleeding, but very clean hands) It’s choosing to believe the best when you’ve sensed a personal insult. It’s listening long when you’d rather be talking. It’s silencing gossip and encouraging direct and kind speech. It’s forgiving small hurts and then shielding the one at fault from the judgement of others. It’s suppressing your own judgment when you don’t have enough information or when you’ve heard just one side of the story. It’s gently and privately speaking the truth to a friend and pleading with her to hear and obey it. It’s rejoicing in another’s good circumstances even while you mourn your own. It’s being misunderstood without taking offense. It’s seeking understanding rather than jumping to conclusions. It’s offering praise and encouragement where it is deserved, not withholding out of envy or pride. It’s enduring difficult and exhausting personalities. It’s confessing sin and seeking reconciliation. It’s repeatedly asking the question, “what is best for him or her?” and then following through even at great personal cost. It’s seeing your family members the way Jesus sees you–as forgiven, loved, worth dying for, and one with whom you’re eager to spend eternity.
*It’s not clear from the text exactly what brothers these false teachers hated, but it was likely John himself and any others who were loyal to his teachings and confronted them with the truth.
Other blogs in this series: