1 John

1 John 2:7-17: To love or not to love

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1 John 2:7-17 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. (8) 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. (9) Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (10) Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. (11) 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. (12) I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. (13) 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. (14) 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. (15) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. (17) And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

To have fellowship with God is to have our sins forgiven by the blood of the Lamb and to step from the darkness into His Light (1 John 1:5-10). It is to obey his Word and hold on to His commandments (1 John 2:1-6). In this passage the Apostle John begins to tell us what that means. But he begins not by dazzling us with some new hidden knowledge but with an old commandment. An old commandment that shines anew because the light is breaking into the darkness (v.8). A commandment that should be what defines us as children of the God.

Love your brother. 

Seeing that he is writing to the church,  I take it that he means love your Christian brothers and sisters i.e all those in the family of believers (v.9-10). There are other passages that talk about how Christians should display love to non-believers and even to their enemies. But I think this is specific to the church family.

The language he uses is quite clear: If you hate your brother you are in darkness and blinded by the darkness (v.11). Loving your brother is what marks you as walking in the light. Loving each other as Christian brothers and sisters is a command. Not something we do because we feel like it, but a way of showing that we are indeed of the family of God. As we live as a community of believers there will undoubtedly be moments of friction among us, but what should mark us as different to the world is the genuine love that they see among us. Much more would be said about this later on in this letter.

But while we are commanded to love one another, we are also told not to love the world. And the reason is simple, all the desires and things of this world will pass away. Indeed the world as we know it will pass away but whatever is of the Father and whoever does the Father's will shall last forever (v.15-17). Again the language is very strong and very clear: whoever loves the world does not have the love of the Father in them.

It is extremely sad that in recent times, the desire for the things of this world is used to lure people to church . God is presented as the gateway to getting all the things we desire: wealth, health and prosperity.  In focusing and obsessing over the temporal things we forget to nurture and grow the truly eternal things like loving our brothers and sisters.  We are encouraging people to love the world instead of encouraging them to love God and each other. As the scripture says: For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36). 

We can do all this because our sins have been forgiven and we know the Father who is from the beginning. We also do this because the Word of God abides in us which makes us strong and over comers of the evil one (v.12-14).

In this Easter period we must remember that because of Christ's death on the cross, we are forgiven and have been brought into fellowship with God. He has called us from the darkness into the light. And he commands us to not love the world but to love each other, not being blinded by the darkness.