1Jn 2:7-11 “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”
I love the relationship that John owns with his audience. He refers to them (and us) as “brethren.” The Greek word adelphos is formed from the Greek letter “alpha” (which, depending on its connection can imply the first, privation, or union [see Strong’s]) and the Greek word delphus (womb). In calling us brethren, John is pointing out that those who understand that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins have a bond that goes back to our origin.
We feel the power of this bond; not only in those with whom we worship, but also with virtual strangers we may meet on the street. In this age of digital communication, I have been blessed to develop a deep fellowship with men and women whom I have never met in person. They live in different countries on different continents. Our cultures, government, and social structures are vastly different; yet we can speak to each other in love and share the joy of our Lord and Savior. We even feel this bond with saints who have been dead for centuries as we read the Bible and discover other writings of and about those who have literally given their lives for this faith we hold dear. We are brethren (brothers and sisters), Jesus Himself being our Elder Brother.
Having this deep connection, John says on the one hand that he is not writing any new order. He is affirming something that was heard from the beginning. We are sinners in need of a Savior; Jesus Christ is that Savior. We should walk as He walked and know the joy of the complete love of God in our hearts. On the other hand, John declares that he is writing a new order. He says this new command is true (Strong’s: not concealing) in Jesus and in us. It is not concealed because the darkness of doubt and disbelief is past. The true light of Jesus Christ (which has always shown in Him) now shines in us!
If we hate our brother (same Greek word as the one rendered “brethren” in the opening) we cannot claim to be in the light. The word “hate” also carries with it the idea of being hateful. We may claim with our tongues to love all God’s people (including those that do not see things as we do), but if we speak of them in a hateful, deriding manner we are not abiding in the light. If we live in the light, walk in the light, and manifest the light in our lives this will drive away the darkness in a way that hateful rhetoric will never do.
I don’t need to prove to people that I am right; I need to show people this wonderful Savior that lives in me. If I am blessed to point to Jesus, as John the Baptist did, and say by the power of the Holy Ghost “Behold the Lamb of God,” that will change men’s lives! This is a direction we can walk in together without setting a snare (an occasion for stumbling) for our brother. Only in truly loving my brother am I assured of living in the light.
On the other hand, if all I do is entreat those that I deem to be in darkness in a hateful manner, I am still in as much darkness as I esteem them to be in. I am not only in darkness, but my behavior (walk) is in darkness. I don’t know where I am going, because the darkness has me blinded. This new commandment says that I simply cannot be hateful to God’s children and believe that I walk in the light. I am not advocating that we try to have fellowship with the darkness, but that we are diligent to walk in the light; the light will take care of the darkness.
Simply pointing out error to our brothers and sisters will not turn them from their error; showing them the love of Jesus as the Spirit grants us an entrance will. Telling them that our way is more God-honoring than their way will never turn them from their way; waiting on the Lord to use us as a vessel for the light will. Ridiculing and mocking them for being caught up in a lie will never bring them to the truth; walking in the power of the light of Jesus Christ according to God’s purpose will. Hating (or being hateful to) our brethren will never teach them to love; Jesus blessing us to love Him and love one another will.
May we walk in the truth that we have heard from the beginning and live in the light of this new commandment which is embodied in Jesus Christ our Lord!