“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.” (1 John 2:7–11 ESV)
John is not launching a new command, but reiterating the singular command of scripture: Love God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and others (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:34-40). The requirement of God has always been to love Him first and to obey Him as a reflection of our love for Him. Our obedience was always supposed to flow out of our love for Him. However, we learn through the whole of the Old Testament and from our personal lives that being commanded to love God is impossible for us to obey. Laws, rules & commands don’t produce love. Love must be shown, love must be demonstrated. The Law modeled what loving behavior looked like, but was powerless to produce it on its own. It was all pointing to One who would demonstrate perfect love by coming and living a perfectly obedient life of love on our behalf.
John also says that this command is new. The command to wholeheartedly love God has now been fulfilled by Jesus. God clothed Himself in the confines of human flesh, subjected Himself to a life on broken earth, was tempted in every way (but never sinned), was spit upon, ridiculed and murdered for His goodness – all for us. He demonstrated perfect love for God and for us. Who goes through what He went through for His enemies? Who does that to make enemies family? Our love for God is the natural byproduct of believing what Jesus has done on our behalf. The more we meditate on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection on our behalf, the more we are moved by His demonstration of love for us. His love marks us and produces a love for God that flows into a love for others.
It is impossible walk in the light and hate others. But, how do we learn to love others? We abide in Him, we revel in and behold the beautiful love that Jesus had for us – the most depraved, broken and rebellious of people. In an abiding relationship with Jesus, there is no darkness. If we have hatred for others, we are walking in darkness and are blinded by the darkness. So if we feel hatred boiling up in us, do we just try harder to love Jesus and that person? No. We run to the foot of the cross, we behold Him and Who He is and what He has done. We beg God to awaken our dead hearts to the redemptive beauty and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We ask to see God’s majesty, holiness & glory more clearly and to understand our depravity more deeply. These are the things that make love and grace something that no longer needs to be explained because they are now experienced. When we know just how bad we really are and just how perfect & powerful He really is, we fall on our knees in worship because we know how unworthy we really are to be called His children. This worship gives way to a love for others that is supernatural.