On Thursdays, I’ve been sharing a little bit of what I have been learning as I read through 1 John.
Last week we read the first part in a passage about love. John shares how love and obedience go hand in hand. He lifts up Jesus as the perfect example of obedient love, saying those who wish to live in love will live as Christ did.
John continues by writing:
“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. 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.” 1 John 2:7-8 TNIV
He makes a contrast here between an old commandment and a new commandment.
One of my favorite themes in the Bible is the way God does something new with the old. New hearts. New minds. New creation.
Here John writes of an old command that these believers have had since the beginning, presumably of their knowledge of the gospel or their relationship with Christ. He also writes to them a new command.
So what is this command?
It takes a little sleuthing into the context to pick up the general scent of the command. As I read the surrounding verses, it is clear that John is writing about love.
An old command about love? That rings a bell.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the your LORD God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be on your hearts.” Deuteronomy 6:4-6 TNIV
This command, called the Shema, was given as a part of God’s covenant with Israel after He freed them from slavery in Egypt. It is this “old command” Jesus calls special attention to, pairing it with another commandment from Leviticus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He says of these two commandments together, “There is no commandment greater than these.”
So what about this new command? We find out from the writer, himself, in his gospel—John.
Jesus tells His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).It is a new command that looks a lot like the old command. Interesting.
As I read about this passage in the John Stott commentary about the epistles of John, he quotes Robert Candlish who writes “for though doctrinal Christianity is always old; experimental Christianity is always new.” Very interesting.
It seems to talk love is old. To live love is new—always new.
This is what Jesus lived. He lived love. It often looked different than people expected or thought it should. He touched lepers. He talked with Samaritan women. He confronted the rulers of the law. He loved all. And He changed the world.
This is how we are to live. We are to live love—like Christ. We are to allow the truth of this new command (that is really of old), the one Jesus gave us, be seen in our lives.
When we do we live as people of the light.
We live testifying that darkness is passing and that the true Light is already shining.
We can live this right now--experiential love.
We can allow the Light of the world to shine right through our lives in new ways.
Let’s keep our eyes open and respond creatively to the call to love God and love others as Christ has loved us.
Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we live love. May we find that His love really is always new as we love others as Christ has loved us. May we allow the Spirit to work in and through us enabling us to love in ways we didn’t think we could—extravagantly, fervently, and with persistence.