Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.1 John 2:7-14
We spend time with the people we love the most. Whether it’s our spouse, our kids, our close friends, we’ve all felt the desire to remain with them. But what about that person who, when you see them, immediately takes the wind right out of your sails? We don’t want to remain. We want to retreat. We all have someone in our life that is hard to love.
If you haven’t already, read through the scripture above. John writes of this command that is both old and new. It seems odd to call something old and new at the same time, right? But bear with me. It is old because it’s originally derived from the Jewish scriptures:
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:18
But it is also new because Jesus reinterpreted this command in a new way:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.John 13:34-35
While John doesn’t explicitly say “love one another”, he says “this is the word you have heard.” This was a command they knew. As he expounds on this theme of walking in the light, there is this clarion call of believers to love one another. Love is the hallmark of the Christian community. For John, when we love, we walk in the light. The love of God and the love of others are two undivorceable realities. We cannot say we love one if we refuse to love the other.
But what is love?
In our day, love is reduced down to a feeling. To many, love means pleasant affection. But for Jesus and John, love means purposed action. The command to love runs throughout the pages of scripture, but it is not a command to conjure up a feeling. Let’s be clear: if you wait until you feel love towards someone, you will never truly love them. Furthermore, if you have unpleasant feelings towards someone, it isn’t necessarily a signal to disconnect from them. Often, it’s an opportunity given by God to love them. With that said, wisdom and discernment should be used as some people are dangerous.
John’s words focus on the attitudes that were causing people to treat others with indifference, as annoyances, as competition, or even as enemies. But love is expressed in action, regardless of our affections towards someone. Then John does something interesting in verse 12. He addresses people of all ages, urging them to grasp this truth.
Here are some truths to consider as you reflect on John’s words:
You have an influence on future generations
We tend to forget that there is always someone who is looking to us as an example. We never make decisions that impact us exclusively. They ripple out into our closest relationships, especially those who see us as a spiritual authority in their life. Furthermore, we are making decisions that will impact those who will someday be in positions of spiritual authority. As children learn about Jesus and see the characteristics and qualities of Jesus rightly modeled for them, they grow in their ability to resist the temptation to walk in darkness. As they become young adults who experience victory over temptation, they will continue to grow into Christian maturity. And finally, as older adults, having walked with Christ for years, they will have applied biblical wisdom to impart to future generations.
you never age out of loving people
At every moment and every season, we have the privilege and joy of being agents of God’s love to those who are in dire need of it. We never age out of loving others. Loving others might look different from someone who is in their 20’s versus someone in their 80’s, but the call to love is universally applied to people of every age.
you have an inexhaustible supply of love
Some of us feel overwhelmed at the prospect of always having a posture of love towards people, especially towards those we dislike. But there is good news. We don’t have to rely on our own ability. We have an infinite resource called the Holy Spirit who will give us what we need at any given moment to love people well. If we ask Him for it, He will give it to us.
above all things, abide
In verse 10, John writes “abide in the light.” This is a call back to Jesus’ command to His disciples to abide in Him in John 15. To abide simply means to “remain” or “stay”. We enjoy staying or remaining with those we love the most, right? If you call yourself a Christian, that means Jesus is the one you love the most.
That means we are to remain with Him in all we do. If we remain with the source of love, we will never have any worry about our supply of love. There will always be enough. Whether you are young or old, abide in the source of love. Whether you count someone as a friend or an enemy, abide in the source of love. Whether you feel affection towards someone or not, abide in the source of love.
Grace & Peace,