The Old & New Command to Love

1 John 2:7-11 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. 8 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. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 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] 

All children need to be taught love. That’s surprising. When we first meet our children we are so filled with love for them. Their skin is all wrinkled, hair matted, eyes closed, covered in the mess of the birthing moment, yet we love them with our life. It is deeper than love at first sight love. We are ready from the first moment we meet our children to live our life for them regardless of the cost to us personally.

And to our surprise, it takes time and maturity before they learn to love the same way back. We hold out hope that they will grow up and stop being self centered, but their growth in love is something we parent into them. We teach it. We command it.

I have to teach my children the meaning of self sacrificing love. I found myself this last week confronting one of my sons that their actions were revealing their love for themselves, at the expense of the love they say they have for their mom.

The truth is that we are always pursuing the love in our hearts.

If we love ourselves, then we will meet our own needs before the needs of others. We will take the last cup of milk and leave others with nothing. We will not feed the dogs or clean our rooms, because that is a moment of service to others. And we are too busy focused on ourselves.

Even a brief moment of service to a brother or sister is too painful a sacrifice to leave the attention of love that we are giving to ourselves. It’s not natural to break away from our love.

It makes us irritated. Like leaving the television program to get a drink for a young child, or walking away from the internet to help take out the trash. Often a fit of anger proceeds our taking a break from our love.

Now, there is a man who grew up alongside Jesus who knows a better way to live. And this man wrote a book, not to chronicle his amazing life, but to show us what true living looks like. A life of love lived in the light by none other than Jesus the Christ.

And John knew better than to give the Jewish people a new commandment.

That would make the people in John’s day unsettled to consider any new top level commandments outside the Ten Commandments God already gave. How could any good Jew become a Christian if they had to replace the Ten Commandments with a new one from John.

7 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.

What is John referencing? Every Jew reading this little letter would immediately begin to recite in their mind Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Keeping the commandments of God come naturally to those who love.

Hear O Church, The Lord our God, The Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might!

Godliness will naturally happen if we live by the law of love.

Jesus connected love with keeping commandments in Mark 12:30-31 A godly scribe asked Jesus which commandment was the most important. Jesus said you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

Let me illustrate. There are many laws that govern my drive to work every morning. Laws about my speed, the use of turn signals when changing lanes, the road worthiness of my car and many other laws. There are even laws for my own safety.

And every time I break a law I am telling the cars around me that I am willing to put their life at risk for the pleasure of meeting my needs before their needs. If I cut in line or if I drive distracted, I am selfishly serving my own needs ahead of the needs of others.

The State of Georgia isn’t trying to restrict my joy in driving, they are exhorting me to drive with others in mind.

But I can put all those lesser laws out of my mind if I just drive thinking about the needs of others. I will drive patient, polite, careful and with a certain gentleness if I am not focused on loving myself, but rather loving God and others.

John offers the Church the beginning of the Mosaic Ten Commandments as the foundation for our new life in the Messiah, in Christ. The old commandment is the word that you have heard since you first attended the synagogue as a infant.

Yet, John says that this commandment that governors the whole Christian life is also new in certain respects.

When we hear the commandment to love God and others, we think of Jesus who loved God and loved others to the death.

Where Peter James and John not the sons of thunder? Did they not seek self promotion at the right hand of Jesus? Did not all the disciples abandon Jesus during His trial? Even argue with the women who found the empty tomb? None of them were better than Thomas who doubted until he could see the rises Christ.

Yet Jesus loved them. Jesus loved the Samaritan woman who had over half a dozen husbands.

When a couple soldiers obeyed their commanding officers and pounded nails to hold the hands and feet of Jesus on a wooden beam, Jesus prayed that they wouldn’t become notorious like Pilate and that God would forgive them since they didn’t really know what they were doing.

Jesus was thinking about the needs of others moments before the Father turned His back on Jesus and stopped sustaining Him during His trials and temptations. Jesus is a moments breath away from carrying the weight of the sins of the world on His soul and he notices the vulnerability and needs of these clueless soldiers who needed his prayers of forgiveness.

It was love that gave the Only Begotten Son to the World, and it was love that took Jesus to the Cross to die for sinners like us.

Matthew 4:16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.

God is Light. God is Love. God is Spirit. If we will live by the Spirit, then we will live in the light and we will love like Jesus.

Luke 1:78-79 Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace.

Without God’s love in our hearts we sit in darkness and we are wasting our days in the shadow of death awaiting the day of our eternal reckoning.

Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Imagine your life in Heaven. Now, keeping that Heavenly perspective how should we treat our neighbors?

  • We should prefer others before ourselves. (Rom. 12:10).
  • Be of the same mind one to another (Rom. 12:16).
  • Do not judge one another (Rom. 14:13).
  • Receive one another (Rom. 15:7).
  • Admonish one another (Rom. 15:14).
  • Edify [build up] one another (1 Thes. 5:11).
  • Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

The whole law of God can be kept if we love one another.

It’s an old command that we have heard from the very beginning. It is a new command as it requires that we focus on the life of Jesus.

It’s a command that requires we live in the light. If we take time every morning to maintain our fellowship with Jesus, then we will be empowered to live in a loving way all day long.

It’s the best marker for the world to see that we know God. John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

John is repeating the truths for life that Jesus spoke to His disciples.

A happy religious life isn’t about keeping commandments. It’s about friendship with God. It’s about fellowship with God. If we live by the Spirit then we will love like Jesus, keep the commandments without even trying and the whole world will know that we know God.

Don’t we wish the Christian life was this easy? It is at least this simple.

Let me close with an illustration.

My family enjoys playing board games. Battleship, Blockus, War, Go Fish and other family card games. Those moments are precious because we are together. We are enjoying fellowship and family togetherness.

We do not gather around the kitchen table to read and study the rule book and then play to keep the rules. The rules of the game are incidental. Necessary, but not the focus. There is no joy in rule keeping. The joy is in the people we gather around the table.

But how much joy is there when people at the table are trying to win by cheating? Does it stay joyful if losing makes someone angry or cry?

The moment really isn’t about the game, it’s about the fellowship, and when we take our eyes off the joy of our fellowship the moment is lost.

Life is like the board game. God wants you at His table. He calls you to Himself. God gathers you around His table. We all take our turns and enjoy fellowship together. At the end of the day all the money and pieces go back in the box.

The winners are not the ones with the most money, rather the ones who enjoy the company of others the most.

Of course we still need rules. Some people will be competitive to a fault and others will love themselves so much that cheating will seem the right choice so that they can win. The group needs the rules as protection from those filled with darkness. The rules protect the rest of us.

But it really isn’t about the rules. God isn’t thinking about the rules. God is thinking about how much he enjoys sitting at the table with us and living out the game of life.

God is looking for fellowship with His family. You are part of His family if you place your faith in Jesus and seek to glory Him with your life. Profess Jesus as Lord. Live for Him. He is Lord. He is Savior.

And your Father wants you to love Him as the first order of business for your whole life. If we will do this then the rest of our life will make sense. We won’t have an easy life, but it will be easier. Jesus promised His yoke is easy, His burdens are light. He shares our life struggles with us.

The missing commandment from our life is Love. Unite in fellowship with Him. Let His love fill your heart and soul. Love others. This is part of God’s primary nature. God is Love.

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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