7 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. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 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.
(1 John 2:7-11 NIV)
John gives further evidence that we are Christ followers by the way we interact with others.
John says that he is reminding them of an old command – this should be familiar ground for them. The “new” part of this command is the way Jesus modeled this love for others during His time on earth.
So was John saying that the old reminder was referring back to Jesus’ command love one another that John recorded in his Gospel?
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
(John 13:34-35 NIV)
I think John was referring back to the Old Testament, where God gave this instruction the first time:
18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people,but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:18 NIV)
John is talking about the way we treat other as followers of Christ. If we say we follow Christ but have hatred in our hearts against them, then our walk does not match our talk. This is at the petty level of getting along, as well as some much deeper divisions as well.
Do we love those of different nationalities, ethnic groups, socioeconomic status, political persuasions, or other groupings that we as humans tend to categorize ourselves by?
While we may not actively “hate” those who are different from us, are we withholding love from other Christ followers because of our differences? Are we allowing our differences to divide us?
Jesus called a wide diversity of people as disciples. Imagine having Simon the Zealot (separatist, anti-government, ultra conservative, pro-Israel and nationalist) alongside Matthew the tax collector (the polar opposite of the Zealots – in many Jewish eyes, he “sold his soul” to the Roman government, and was considered a “traitor” of sorts to Israel). But yet, the Lord called both of them to leave their backgrounds and biases to follow Him.
Are we willing to put our biases and differences behind us and love one another as Christ did? Are we walking in the light of Christ’s example as John commanded us to? These are hard truths to live out, as some of these differences are deeply ingrained in how we were raised and taught. The tough thing about our blind spots is that we cannot see them. Sometimes it is harder to “un-learn” our old ways than it is to learn something new.
May the light of Christ illuminate our hearts and minds and show us where we still have blind spots. May we love other Christ followers as Christ loved. May Jesus’ example be our standard and practice.