Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 John 2:7-11
Last week, we began to look at a new dimension of God’s love. Let’s continue to study more about it today.
In the above passage John is setting up a strong case regarding our new birth. He says that the proof of a person’s Salvation is his or her ability to keep God’s commandments. Then he points out that there is one commandment in particular that we must keep – that of brotherly love. The love among followers of Jesus is known as brotherly love.
Yes! Not a feeling or experience but brotherly love.
Now, before going any further, I’d like to briefly explain the characteristics of this commandment of loving one another.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BROTHERLY LOVE
1. OLD AND NEW COMMANDMENT
Notice how John refers to the commandment of loving one another as being both old and new. As much as it sounds like a strange thing to say, John was not the first person to make such a statement. Jesus in John 13:34 said, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another’. Clearly, this was not a new commandment. The Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18 stated the commandment for the first time when God said, ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord’.
So what did Jesus and His disciple John mean by saying that ‘loving one another’ was a new commandment if it actually was a very old one?
Here’s what it means.
When the commandment was given in the Old Testament, nobody had the power to live and fulfill it perfectly. But when Jesus died on the Cross, forgave us our sins and gave us the gift of a new life, He paved the way for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and empower us to fulfill God’s commandments.
So, essentially, this old commandment of brotherly love was given to a new kind of people (born again Christians) who would be empowered to fulfill it with the help of the Holy Spirit.
2. TRUE IN GOD AND IN US
Let’s go back to 1 John 2:8. It says, ‘a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining’.
What does John mean by the statement that this commandment is true in Him and in you?
It’s true in Jesus because as a man He lived a perfect, sinless life and fulfilled all of God’s commandments. It’s true in us because He has made a way for us, filled us with His Holy Spirit and has enabled us to live like Jesus in fulfilling all the commandments.
3. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WORLD AND US
We need to only look at the world around us to see the absence of this love. Even as the world makes sweeping strides of progress and development in technology and inventions, the murderous spirit of Cain is still lurking around. Both the World Wars of the 20th century are iconic representations of the pure evil in mankind. In fact, we don’t have to look farther than our homes and offices to spot the monstrous Hitlers raising heads every now and then. Over and over again it has thus been proved that the world is completely unable to love one another. But in this same world, God now has a wonderful set of people or ‘ecclesia or church or called-out-people’ whose distinguishing feature is the ability to love each other like Jesus commanded.
Having explained the characteristics of the brotherly love commandment, let us now look at its implications in our lives.
IMPLICATIONS OF BROTHERLY LOVE
1. DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 John 2:9, 11
Christ has brought about a new order of people in this world. A people who had been in darkness have now been delivered to light. Not only are they in light, but their blindness has been healed as well. Earlier they were in darkness and were blind, but now their eyes have been opened and have been brought into precious light. They can now see perfectly.
2. EMPOWERED TO LOVE
John minces no words in saying that a follower of Jesus will be able to love his brethren. Period! In other words, if we don’t love our brothers we are still in darkness, but if we do love our brothers then we live in light even though we may have many other defects.
3. STARK DIFFERENCES
Let us make a quick comparison between the unbeliever and the believer in light of the brotherly love commandment.
a. In darkness
Titus 3:3 lists an unbeliever’s features. It says, ‘For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.’ – foolishness, disobedience, slave of various lusts and pleasures, living in malice, envious and hateful. Often in the world, these traits are masked by a superficial charm. As we get deeper into understanding the person we recognize his or her follies. Here’s a sample. Suppose two people are meeting after a long time. They would ‘oooh’ and ‘ah’ over each other and gush about how they had missed each other etc. After promising to meet up soon they part ways. Then listen to their private thoughts or comments. Many a time, it will be completely contrary to their public display of affection. The worldly unbeliever calls this pretense and performance a life skill but the Bible calls it a masked evil.
The unbeliever does not know where he is going. The darkness controls him. His happiness and life are governed by it.
The unbeliever is blinded completely. He has no understanding or insight about life, man or sin. He has no knowledge that he has to give an account for his life to the Eternal Judge one day.
d. Stumbling block
A stumbling block is when a person is unloving and causes trouble wherever he goes. They assume insult and offenses wherever they go and annoy everybody around them.
A believer is the opposite.
a. In light
He walks and lives in light. Because he lives in light, he knows every step he takes. He does not trip and stumble.
He is governed by a Godly purpose in life and is not influenced by circumstances. Every day that he lives is meaningful. One day he will surely reach his destiny.
c. His eyes are open
His eyes are open to who he is. He knows that he was once a sinner, who has now been saved. He now sees the truth. He realizes that Jesus is the solution to all his problems.
d. Helps others
He doesn’t stumble or cause anyone to either. Wherever he goes there will be peace and serenity. He will bring out the best in people. Those around him will see God is in him. Instead of criticizing or gossiping, he will pray for sinners and be compassionate towards them. He knows that he was once like that – an unbeliever – and that because of Jesus he has been saved. So he will reach out in brotherly love to those who live in darkness.
God has put us to shine the light into this world of darkness. In John 17, Jesus prayed that we should not be taken from this world, but that we should live in this world and shine the light of Jesus wherever we go – to be a Godly influence by our words, deeds and our mere presence.