I'm pumped about this, not because I found some obscure bible verse that is rarely studied, or because I have some new fantastical illustration to bust out. I just genuinely love this passage both for what it is, what it says and all the doors it opens.
There's some passages that you could study but never really think about in your daily life (I mean Revelation? That thing be like whoa...my mind might actually explode if I think on it too long). This is not one of those. This passage matters every day. It doesn't matter where you work, who you see, if you are a parent or a teenager, this passage has to be daily lived. We'd be wise to pray this over ourselves as we head out in morning traffic or as we pour the milk for our kids' cereal.
"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."
This HAS to shape us. We need this truth in the little moments, while our mind wonders as we vacuum the too small rug in the living room. We need this truth as we enter into big, hard, heavy conversations. We need this passage as we grocery shop and as we give our lunch order to our waitress. Because if we don't get this, if we miss this--we've missed it all. We've cheated, we've fabricated, we have created a counterfeit Christian life if we keep this one up on a shelf in a cozy compartment with a lid.
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.
On the first read: "Meh, I'm pretty good at this. No major divisions or burned relationships in my life."
But then it sits with you. Love. Not just complacent fine-ness. LOVE. Love is active. Love bears all. Love believes all. How many times do I draw the line of my love? How often do I doubt another's word? How often do I settle for a quick, flat interaction rather than seizing it for a small chance to love? How often am I patting myself on the back for being a great Christian who has it all together whilst holding a grudge or judging a fellow believer?
Loving that gossip at church who always always makes everything harder,
loving the brother who just annoys the crud out of me,
loving that sister who hurt me,
loving that couple who is, frankly, inconvenient to love,
loving the power couple that everyone loves,
loving the sister who makes me uncomfortable,
loving the brother whose theology is different from mine,
loving the sister who makes bad decisions,
loving the ones who drain you,
loving the ones who fill you.
Loving the highest and loving the lowest.
This week we've been studying how to love our brother, our fellow Christians. Usually when I think about the kind of love that matters I think about loving people who don't know God's love for themselves yet. Sometimes I blow off the importance of loving every single person in the family of God. But they really are the same love aren't they? Both are tools for glorifying God, both have the power to change lives. Both loves reveal areas of my heart that need sanctification. And why would I stand at the door and say to an unbelieving world "Come in, enter into His forgiveness and redemption! You are loved! And once you're here...it's every man for himself."
The world is watching. Are we a family who can come to the table after a long day of work and enjoy, respect, and support one another?
In her book For The Love, Jen Hatmaker has a chapter entitled "Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Lame." This is one of my very favorite chapters, I've underlined so much of it and it goes perfectly with what we are talking about today. Jen says "There is a clear correlation between how we treat each other and how a watching world will feel about Jesus" (Hatmaker, 192). She goes on to say that loving our brothers and sisters in faith is "not only our testimony, but also our reward. What a treasure we receive alongside salvation! The lonely, the outcast, the sick, and the sad inherit a family" (Hatmaker, 193).
We've been talking a lot about obedience. I always used to think that love and obedience were two separate things. While I've sat with this passage in 1 John 2, I've been so convicted that love and obedience are an endless cycle for the believer, one fuels the other. We love God so we obey Him, as we obey him we must love others, as we love others they love God and obey him, and as we walk alongside them we are encouraged in our love in obedience as well. These two parts of Christian living are anything but separate! As a rule follower, this is breaking down some serious walls for me and I hope it is for you too.
Who is hard for you love? How can you love them in a way that points to Christ? When has someone loved you when you were hard to love? Do you believe that God can supply you with love for others?
**Loving someone who is difficult is part of our mission as Christians, but this doesn't mean enabling destructive behavior. Being safe and setting appropriate boundaries are important. Sometimes loving someone means modeling healthy, genuine love by rejecting sinful behavior and getting the help of elders or authorities. Abuse is not love and it is not what God is calling us to seek or permit.
Burge, Gary M. "Letters of John." The NIV Application Commentary: Fro Biblical Text ... to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996. 53. Print.
Hatmaker, Jen. "Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Lame." For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. Nashville: Nelson Booke, 2015. 192-93. Print.