There are a lot of things I still don’t completely understand about the Bible. No matter how long I study or how deeply I read, there will always be things that are part of the unknown. They are mysteries and I am okay with that. It doesn’t mean I stop searching and digging. Some mysteries are revealed just as we need them. Some are meant to be understood in just small fragments, for that is enough. But there is one overriding, obvious teaching that is not a mystery. There is one concept that is taught and re-taught and taught in new and different ways. It is new and old. It can be easy and it can be challenging. It is done and it is forgotten. I personally don’t think we can talk enough about it. One reason for that belief is that the Bible speaks so much about it. It fills the pages and is the background of so many of the teachings. It is not a mystery, even if we treat it like it is.
1 John 2:7-17
7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.
12 I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
because you have conquered the evil one.
14 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 people,
because you are strong
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16 for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
Yes, you have heard this before. Yes, you may already know you are to love God and love others. Yes, it is written over and over in the Old Testament and the New. Yes, Jesus said it was the hinge for it all. Yes, I know we say we understand it. But 1 John is pretty direct about it. And it should cause us to do a little more exploration of ourselves. It should give us pause to consider our love. There is a lot of talk about love. But this gives us clear direction that there should be action as well. And maybe you have this without a problem. I would challenge you to continue to find new ways to love. You may even want to evaluate your motives and your heart. We could all use a check-up from time to time. Maybe this will be ours.
1 John teaches us that to love is to live in the light. By loving, we have a clearer path and a clearer direction. Love lights the way. It is, by the way, the love of Christ that makes the difference. It isn’t a simple, cheesy type of love. This is an intense, deep love that causes us to give of ourselves even when it is uncomfortable. This is a love that is not always easy. This is a love that reaches beyond borders and knows no color. This love pushes us to love those we would not ordinarily consider loving. This love makes us reach beyond political boundaries and finds new ways to create relationships. This love calls us to bust down the walls we have built and cross artificial lines we have made. This love is life changing. This love does not have room for hate.
But that really is the kicker, isn’t it? 1 John teaches that when we have hate for another brother or sister…another believer…another of God’s children, we live in darkness. The darkness brings on blindness and we don’t know which way to go because we do not have the light. This doesn’t leave us a lot of wiggle room, does it? This doesn’t give us any reason to hate others because of the color of their skin, where they were born, whether they are citizens or not, whether they worship like us, or whether they believe everything just like we do. It doesn’t really give us a reason to hate at all. If anything, it gives us more reasons to love. We know that love conquers the darkness. We know love can change the heart of a person. We know that love enables us to shine bright in difficult situations.
We get this incredible love by first loving God. This is not your ‘love at first sight’ kind of love. This is a powerful love given to us from the author of love. This is one of a kind that takes away our excuses and gives us a heart to search to love others. We don’t get to be picky and selective about who we love. Jesus didn’t come to give us new life so we could be filled with hate. There is no room for that. This love isn’t the mushy kind of love either. This is the type of love that causes us to get involved, become uncomfortable, reach outside of ourselves, and love like Jesus.
The unfortunate part is that too many of us have decided who we will love based on a set of criteria we have created for ourselves. We have built this internal list and given ourselves reasons to not love someone else. When it is hard or we don’t agree with someone, we just use one of our excuses so we can give ourselves an out from loving that person. Surely God wouldn’t want us to love her – doesn’t he know what she has done. I can’t believe God would cause me to love him – doesn’t he know the life he lives. God would be okay if I didn’t love that person, he doesn’t believe everything just like I do. God will give me a pass on loving this one because they don’t speak my language. We build our list more and more until we are comfortable with whom it is we love. We end up surrounding ourselves with people like us that believe like us, vote like us, look like us and worship like us. And we might find we love most of them. But that completely takes away the point of the entire teaching. I would even say we have created blinders and we might just find we are really living in darkness.
We don’t love based on what someone else has or who their parents are. We don’t love based on agreeing with them or looking like them. The light is in us so that we can share that light. Love conquers the darkness but only if we live in the light.
If you think you have all of this down without a problem, I would challenge you to take a long hard look. I would push you to begin to seek who it is you love and why. We may want to spend some time allowing God to show us those that we are not loving. Too often, we have built our criteria list without even realizing it. It just happens. Our list may be long and exclusive. Tear it up and start reaching out. May we let the light begin to shine bright. It is strong and it is powerful…it is, after all, the love of God that provides that light.