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Those Who Know God Must Love Their Brother (1 John 2:7–11)
1 John 2:7-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 Beloved ones, I am writing you, not a new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you heard. 8 Again, I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother remains in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who 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.
SUPPORTING IDEA: Anyone who claims to live in the light but still hates his brother is not living in the light but in darkness.
2:7–8. The apostle now reminds us of a new/old commandment, making a potentially confusing play on words. One command is at the same time both old and new. The command is that we should love one another. This command is found in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18) as well as in the Gospels (John 15:12; 13:34). In that sense, it can be understood as an old command. However, the same command can also be understood as a new command in the sense that there is now new evidence and new power to fulfill it. The new evidence is that Jesus has died, been buried, and risen again. We have seen the complete example he came to show us (1 Pet. 2:21), and now we have a better understanding of what love looks like than we did in Leviticus or the Gospels.
The new power is the Holy Spirit indwelling true believers, helping them to live out the commands of Scripture. In addition, the church has now gathered together to help stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Through the love Christians can show for one another, we demonstrate to the world that the light which Jesus brought into the world continues to shine in the darkness.
2:9–11. The imagery of light and darkness continues, stating that a person cannot walk in light and darkness at the same time. If he hates his brother, he walks in darkness. If he loves his brother, he walks in light. This is not claiming that we need to be fond of every other Christian or emotionally bonded to all believers. Love (agape) can be understood as the steady direction of the will for the good of another. We are not commanded to “feel” a certain way toward others, but only to “act” properly toward them. Understood this way, when we act properly toward our Christian brothers, out of a desire to be obedient to God, we love them.
Some interpreters have accused John of less than Christian values for not teaching here that we ought to love not just our Christian brothers but even our enemies, as Jesus taught. John certainly didn’t disagree with Jesus’ teaching. His point in this book, however, was specifically to address a situation which the Ephesian Christians faced—a person claiming to be a Christian but refusing to love his fellow Christians.
By David Walls and Max Anders