God’s goal for us is for us to love our brothers and sisters in Jesus, the Messiah. When we receive Jesus into our lives, we come into the light of God’s truth.
Jesus was perfectly clear on this. Love is a choice. Love is not a feeling. John challenges us to go beyond not liking others. We are to focus being concerned with the well being of others. We must get beyond our selfish views and treat others with respect. This isn’t a matter of affection but a matter of action. God will help us. Jesus, the Messiah, will show us the way. God is love.
When we don’t love, we show that we are still in the dark.
May I walk in the light. May I love my brothers and sisters.
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.
English Standard Version. (2016). (1 John 2:7–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Our passage continues the illustration of light and darkness. If a Christian walks in the light and is in fellowship with God, he will also be in fellowship with others in God’s family. Love and light go together, much as hatred and darkness go together.
It is easy to talk about Christian love, but much more difficult to practice it. For one thing, such love is not mere talk. For a disciple of Jesus to say (or sing!) that he loves the brethren, while he actually hates another believer, is for him to lie. In other words (and this is a sobering truth), it is impossible to be in fellowship with the Father and out of fellowship with another Christian at the same time.
This is one reason why God established the local church, the fellowship of believers. “You can’t be a disciple of Jesus alone”—a person cannot live a complete and developing Christian life unless he is in fellowship with God’s people. The Christian life has two relationships: the vertical (Godward) and the horizontal (manward). And what God has joined together, man must not put asunder! And each of these two relationships is to be one of love, one for the other.
Jesus deals with this matter in His manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7). A gift on the altar was valueless if the worshiper had a dispute to settle with his brother. Note that Jesus does not say that the worshiper had something against his brother, but that the brother had something against the worshiper.
- But even when we have been offended, we should not wait for the one who has offended us to come to us; we should go to him.
- If we do not, Jesus warns us that we will end up in a prison of spiritual judgment where we will have to pay the last penny.
- In other words when we harbor an unforgiving, unloving spirit, we harm ourselves most.
The contrast between “saying” and “doing” is one we have met before in scripture. It is easy to practice a Christianity of “words”—singing the right songs, using the right vocabulary, praying the right prayers—and, through it all, deceiving ourselves into thinking we are spiritual.
- This mistake also ties into something Jesus taught in the His Manifesto [Sermon on the Mount] (Matt. 5:33–37).
- What we say should be the true expression of our character. We should not need extra words (“oaths”) to fortify what we say.
- Our yes should mean yes and our no should mean no.
- If we say we are in the light, we will prove it by loving the brethren.
- Many Christians urgently need to be accepted, loved, and encouraged.
Contrary to popular opinion, Christian love is not “blind.” When we practice true Christian love, we find life getting brighter and brighter. Hatred is what darkens life! When true Christian love flows out of our hearts, we will have greater understanding and perception in spiritual things. This is why Paul prays that our love may grow in knowledge and perception, “that you may distinguish the things that differ” (Phil. 1:9–10). A Christian who loves his brother is a Christian who sees more clearly.
No book in the Bible illustrates the blinding power of hatred like the Book of Esther. The events recorded there take place in Persia, where many of the Jews were living after the Captivity. Haman, one of the king’s chief men, had a burning hatred for the Jews. The only way he could satisfy this hatred was to see the whole nation destroyed. He plunged ahead in an evil plot, completely blind to the fact that the Jews would win and that he himself would be destroyed.
Hatred is blinding people today too.
- Christian love is not a shallow sentiment, a passing emotion that we perhaps experience in a church service.
- Christian love is a practical thing; it applies in the everyday affairs of life.
Just consider the “one another” statements in the New Testament and you will see how practical it is to love one another. Here are just a few (there are over twenty such statements):
- Wash one another’s feet (John 13:14).
- Prefer one another (Rom. 12:10).
- Be of the same mind one to another (Rom. 12:16).
- Do not judge one another (Rom. 14:13).
- Receive one another (Rom. 15:7).
- Admonish one another (Rom. 15:14).
- Edify [build up] one another (1 Thes. 5:11).
- Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
- Confess your faults to one another (James 5:16).
- Use hospitality one to another (1 Peter 4:9).
In short, to love other Christians means to treat them the way God treats them—and the way God treats us. Christian love that does not show itself in action and in attitude is spurious.
What happens to a believer who does not love the brethren? We have already seen the first tragic result: he lives in the darkness, though he probably thinks he is living in the light. He thinks he sees, but he is actually blinded by the darkness of hatred. This is the kind of person who causes trouble in fellowship groups. He thinks he is a “spiritual giant,” with great understanding, when he is a babe with very little spiritual perception. He may read the Bible faithfully and pray fervently, but if he has hatred in his heart, he is living a lie.
The second tragic result is that such a believer becomes a cause of stumbling. It is bad enough when an unloving believer hurts himself; but when he starts to hurt others the situation is far more serious. It is serious to walk in the darkness. It is dangerous to walk in the darkness when stumbling blocks are in the way! An unloving brother stumbles himself, and in addition he causes others to stumble.
Now, all of us must admit that we cannot generate Christian love under our own power. By nature, we are selfish and hateful. It is only as God’s Spirit floods our hearts with love that we, in turn, can love one another. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5).
God’s goal: The Spirit of God makes the commandment, “Love one another,” into a new and exciting day-by-day experience. If we walk in the light, God’s Spirit produces love. If we walk in darkness, our own selfish spirit produces hatred.
Good news: The discipleship life in following Jesus — the life that is real — is a beautiful blending of “something old, something new.” The Holy Spirit takes the “old things” and makes them “new things” in our experience. When you stop to think about it, the Holy Spirit never grows old! He is always young! And He is the only Person on earth today who was here centuries ago when Jesus lived, taught, died, and rose again. He is the only One who can take “old truth” and make it fresh and new in our daily experience at this present time.
There are other exciting truths in the rest of John’s letter, but if we fail to obey in this matter of love, the rest of the letter may well be “darkness” to us. The best thing we can do, right now, is to search our hearts to see if we hold anything against a brother, or if someone has anything against us. The life that is real is an honest life—and it is a life of doing, not merely saying. It is a life of active love in the Messiah. This means forgiveness, kindness, long-suffering. But it also means joy, peace, and victory.
The love life is the only life, because it is the life that is real!