In part 1, I ended with comments about the mention of love in 1 John 2:3-6. Before we continue with the study, it would be good to read the whole epistle of 1 John. It only takes a couple of minutes and helps set the context for the study.
Now, let’s continue with chapter 2. The next section of this chapter I want to look at is:
7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:7-11
Before looking at the section I made bold in the passage, notice verses 7-8. At first glance, it might seem that verse 7 contradicts verse 8. He writes no new commandment, but then he does write a new commandment. I think this is the point he is trying to get across. This idea that he is about to talk about in more detail, loving one another, is not a new concept. Deuteronomy 6:5 talks about loving God and Leviticus 19:18 says to love our neighbor as ourselves. This was not news to them. What is new is what Jesus brought to the message. As it is in John 13:34-35,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The new piece here is “as I have loved you.” Jesus lived among us and demonstrated love as it is designed to be. It is that pattern He expects us to follow. The text above in 1 John also refers to understanding and living this love as being enlightened.
Now let’s look at 1John 2:9-11 that is quoted above. As we consider these verses, note that the verbs used (says, hates, loves, abides, walks) are present tense. Verse 9 talks about someone who is saying he is enlightened and yet is hating his brother. That person is blinded by darkness. He does not understand what it means to have a relationship with God and is continuing to fool himself with the delusion that he knows where he is going. In contrast, the person who is continuing to love his brother, as shown and taught by the Lord, is enlightened and can see where he is going.
A sharp delineation is made here by the symbolism used. The comparison made is with the idea of light and dark. Darkness is defined by the absence of light. If light is present, there is no darkness. You cannot have both at the same time. It is one or the other. Think about what that tells us about the relationship between loving God and loving one another. There is a direct connection. We cannot truthfully claim to love God without also loving our brother. It is delusional to think we can mix hating our brother with loving God. This is not the only place in 1 John where this point is stressed. We will see more as the study progresses.
To learn a little bit about this word, I looked up the Greek word and how it was used. The word is “miseo.” The sense of the word is one of separation and careful avoidance. We fall into this description when we avoid a relationship with our brother. Studying about this made me pause and think a bit. Even if I claim to have no animosity for my brother and yet specifically avoid any relationship, I am still guilty of this hatred. Something to think about.
Avoiding the Trap
There is one other thing I wanted to point out about this passage. Note 1 John 2:10:
10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
Notice again that the verbs are in the present tense. He who is continuing to love his brother abides in the light. There is another consequence for a disciple who is continuing to love his brother. That disciple will have no cause for stumbling in him. The word used here for stumbling is “scandalon.” It is the origin of our word “scandal.” The word originally meant a trap, specifically the trigger of a spring-loaded trap.
There is a trap set that will snap closed and ensnare us if we choose not to love our brethren. Continuing to love our brethren keeps us enlightened and we avoid the trap and avoid being a trap for someone else.
What do you think?
There is one other place in the second chapter of 1 John that talks about love. I plan to study that for the next post.
Until next time…