6. 1 John 2:7-14
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.
I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
As people grow older, there is great strength and comfort in tradition. Through the experience of the years people learn the value of knowing their history, of remembering their story. Maturity attains to the wisdom that comes from the past.
Youth is more accepting of change than age. The young are open, even eager, for the new. In youth is strength and resilience for the challenges of the present, and optimism for the future.
In this passage, John wrote to the church, which comprised both young and old. He had a word for all children of God. He brought together the treasured wisdom and truth of the past and the new revelation of the present as it is represented in Christ, who is the focus and embodiment of all truth in all times.
Christ’s commandment of love was not an innovation. John wanted to make this clear. This commandment summed up the whole of God’s revelation from the first words of Creation: “Let there be Light” to the One who said of Himself: “I am the Light of the World”. Jesus himself made that known as he taught the crowds. Matthew wrote that one day a lawyer asked: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And Jesus answered him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40)
The commandment to love had been embedded in every word of Scripture from the beginning. It was nothing new. What was new was that in Jesus Christ the infinite, invisible God was now fully revealed to his creation. Love itself had come down to earth and dwelt among us, a person who could be touched and seen and heard.
God’s intention from the first was to know his creatures and to be known by them. He calls us by name even in our mother’s womb. But it was not until the Son of God came to live among us in the flesh, not until the Lord of Heaven assumed the limitations and frailties of the children of earth, that we could truly know him.
The narrative thread of revelation runs through man’s long rebellion as well as God’s long faithfulness. The Old Testament Scriptures are relentlessly truthful as they portray the depth of man’s corruption; that is why they are often so difficult for us to read. It is only through the lens of redemption in the person of Jesus that the purposes of God come into focus, even in the midst of all those stories about bloodshed and betrayal.
It is as it has always been, John wrote: where there is hatred there is darkness. Even before Cain killed Abel, man was stumbling along in the darkness. At the fall we turned from the light of love and trust to the darkness of bitterness and self-interest. In his letter to the Romans, Paul put it this way:
“…although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but theybecame futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:21)
But now that Jesus has come it is not so with you, John wrote to the church. He wrote this letter to the churches so affectionately, so tenderly, addressing his brothers and sisters in Christ as beloved, as little children. The light has come into the world, John assured them, and the darkness is even now passing away. John wrote in poetic form as he exhorted them (I have taken the liberty of making John’s language a bit more inclusive, in keeping with his intention of addressing the whole church):
Little children, God has revealed himself to each and every one of you as your Father. You know him; you know that he forgives all your sins in the name of Jesus, his beloved Son.
And you, fathers and mothers, you have worshiped God all the long years of your life; you studied the Scriptures from your childhood. You know him, who revealed himself from the beginning.
And you, young men and women, you are on the front lines in the battle against evil in this world. Stay strong, because the victory is already assured in Christ whose Word is rooted and growing in you.
Little children, now that Christ has come in the flesh you all know the Father, even as you have been fully known by him from the beginning. Therefore, as his beloved children, hear his commandment. Love one another.