In our passage for study John examines the fruit of genuine faith, namely, the love of the brotherhood.
v7. John leads into his subject of the fruit of genuine faith by telling his readers that he is not giving them a new command, but an old one. The troublemakers in the congregation are into innovative theology, but not John. The congregation had this command from the time when they first heard the gospel. The command is, of course, Jesus' command to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.
v8. Yet, John wants to add that the commandment is also "new". Jesus actually called it a "new commandment." What this commandment signifies is that darkness is passing away and the light of God's divine presence is shinning ever more brightly.
v9-10. John now focuses on mutual love within the brotherhood, a quality not evident in the troublemakers. Love is the lived-out fruit of a person who has faith in Christ - faith showing itself in love. John's point is simple, a person who claims to be a believer, claims to have accepted the gospel, claims to walk in the light, and yet is devoid of compassion toward their brother and sister in Christ, that person "is still in the darkness."
v11. So, what damage does the hating one do? John could outline the terrible damage done to the church by a hypocrite. He could outline the damage done to individual believers. Yet, he chooses to detail the self-imposed damage of the hypocrite. The damage done by the hater is self-imposed blindness. The light of God's truth is hidden from them. They continue to walk about in darkness, but do not know it.
v12. John specifically addresses his audience, the children of faith, both mature and youthful. His words of encouragement rest on what his readers possess in Christ; "I remind you , my dear children: Yours sins are forgiven in Jesus name", Eugene Peterson.
v13. He writes to remind mature believers that they have "known him who is from the beginning", ie., from the time when they first responded to the gospel up until now they have been Jesus' friend. He also writes to remind young believers that they have "overcome the evil one." Their victory is through faith in Christ.
v14. John runs through the group again listing qualities that apply to all believers. We all know the father, we all know the son, and have overcome the evil one.
It's very easy to preach sermons about loving one another; easy to lay the business of loving on congregations; easy to lay it on from the pulpit, to exhort, to cajole. The result is that we all end up going home guilt-ridden instead of free. So, maybe our search today is for guilt-free brotherly love.
I mean by loving, not the feeling, not the emotion, but the deed. Maybe the word compassion would be a better one. The old King James Bible called it "charity", an active caring of others. And not just any old others, but brothers and sisters in Christ others. But as I said, loving is no easy road. Considering the needs of my fellow brothers and sisters in my church is what John means by love. But loving is something we don't do very well, and so when exhorted to do it, we end up guilty. In truth, my selfishness is most often more powerful than my will to care for my brothers and sisters. To involve myself in the pains of others is all too much. So, I really don't need another impossible command. Yet, what John gives us in this passage is not so much the command to love, but the path to love. This passage gives us a clue to the business of loving.
John tells us that the loving perons is someone who "lives in the light", v10. Such a person lives in love because "there is nothing in him to make him stumble." That is, light lights the way for loving. As for the person who hates, a person who doesn't care for the welfare of the brotherhood, such a person "is still in the darkness", v9, and they walk "around in darkness", v11. The sad thing is that such a person is not even aware that they are in darkness - "he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him", v11. You see, the person who "lives in the light" is aware of their limited loving, they see for they are not blind. I well remember a wonderful sister in the Lord who worried about her salvation because she knew, only too well, the limitations of her loving. As I often said to her, only a child of the light is aware of the darkness within.
Walking in the light is the pathway to love so I guess we had better pin down this light? In v8 John says that "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining." This true light is actually shining "in him", that is, in Christ, and "in you", you believers. So, the light is observed in Jesus, it is the divine light, the light of the God who is light, a light that gives life and nurtures love. Walking in the light involves putting our trust in Jesus and allowing his indwelling life-giving Spirit to renew us day by day. It's as simple as that.
There it is in a nutshell. The believer who trusts Jesus and his word overcomes. When we walk in the light its radiant power propels us on the way. This then is the secret to loving.
1. John writes of a command old and new. Is it the same command and what is it?
2. What is the "true light"?
3. A believer who "loves his brother lives in the light". What is the relationship between love and light? 4. We all know only too well that we rarely love as Christ loved, so by what means can we begin to live in love toward our brothers and sisters.