1 John 2:9-11, “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.”
During the course of His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ often taught the disciples about love for others. It’s not surprising they had difficulty understanding how to love their enemies. Even so, the disciples had trouble understanding they must deeply love their fellow Christians. The Apostle Peter tried to limit the number of times; a Christian must extend love and forgiveness towards fellow Christians. Peter asked if forgiving someone seven times was enough, but Jesus expanded Peter’s understanding, saying He put no limit on forgiveness and love, telling him he must forgive an infinite number of times (Matthew 18:21-35).
1 John 2:9-11 makes it clear, as we learned about in 1 John 2:7-8 the commandment is to love one another as Christians. One of the best markers that we are indeed in Christ is we love and not hate fellow Christians. And if we don’t love fellow Christians, we remain in darkness (1 John 2:9-11).
The commandment to love one another is old and new. Old, in that, God’s people were (and still are) commanded to love and forgive one another long before 1 John was ever written (Lev. 19:17-18; John 13:34). The commandment is new in Jesus (1 John 2:8). By this, I mean the commandment finds its fullest expression, definition, and example in the Lord Jesus. As Christians are obedient to the Holy Spirit, they will live out Jesus’ example by performing new acts of love towards others inside and outside the church, because they are new creations in Christ.
John’s point here is that we would see the depth of love, you and I as Christians must extend to others. This depth is recognized in the Old Covenant, but more clearly revealed in the New Covenant. Since Jesus defines love as forgiving others an infinite amount of times (Matt. 18:22) and in going the extra mile (Matthew 5:41-42); it’s only possible to do so, because of Him. Jesus is the fullest expression of the love of God since God is love (1 John 4:8) and Jesus is God (John 1:1). Jesus Christ is the greatest example of love because He laid down his life for His friends (John 15:13).
To abide in Jesus means to remain in Christ. It is the fruit of our union with Christ which enables us through faith in Christ to have communion with Christ. And John’s point that abiding in Jesus means to walk as He walked in 1 John 2:6. The command to love fellow Christians must be true in our daily experience as we walk before God, as it is it in Him (1 John 2:8). And this is why, we can love one another, not in our own strength, but because of Jesus Christ.
I’m reminded of a situation here in the Bible study I led at my previous church for five years before moving to Southern California. This gentleman was challenging to deal with, and I went into my pastor’s office and told him as such. He said to me to pray for the man. I said no. Then my pastor said, “Dave you need to pray about that.” I said, “Okay, I’ll pray for him.” I knew praying for him would change my heart, but I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to have to love him. I wanted him to respect me. And how wrong I was in reflection. And in praying for him, I learned to love him. And most importantly God took the gigantic log out of my eye and not only did I begin to love this fellow brother in Christ but began to find it easier to love the other difficult people in my life.
We all have difficult people in our lives. Some Christians are easier to love than others. Does that mean that we only spend time with them? We all find certain people less offensive than others, so we gravitate towards those we consider lovable. Jesus though doesn’t call us only to love those who are easy to love. Jesus died for sinners in their place and for their sin and rose again. If we walk in the light, we must love every one of our fellow Christians at our local churches and outside of it.
Now, as my pastor said to me, I say to you, go pray for that difficult person in your local church and watch over time as God changes not only your heart but also the way you see that difficult person. That’s our great need friends, to be changed by the Lord Jesus and He desires to do it, to conform us into the image of Jesus. Please take time today to pray for that difficult person in your church whom you find difficult to love and then seek to have fellowship with them here soon. Not only is this how you grow, but it will also help you address other areas of blindness. These are sandpaper people, and God uses them to sharpen and refine us so that He can grow us to be more like Jesus.