Not long ago, I was reading the Scriptures preparing for a message and got a bit confused for a moment. Even as a pastor this happens occasionally.
I was reading 1st John 2:7, in which the Apostle John writes, “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.”
No big deal. I get it. John is writing about an old command they have heard before. Seems pretty easy to understand…until I came to the next verse… 1st John 2:8, where John writes, “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”
Now for a moment I was confused. I wanted to say, “Hello John…did you just write you are writing an old command then write you are writing a new command? How can a command be old and new at the same time?”
I thought maybe John made a mistake…got confused. But then thought that’s not possible because the Scriptures are inspired by God. Certainly God did not make a mistake. So what could John possibly be talking about?
It took a little while, but I finally figured it out by reading what John wrote in another letter of his, the Gospel of John, in Chapter 13, verse 34. He is quoting the words of Jesus when he writes, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Ok…so now it makes more sense. When Jesus was alive, he gave his Apostles a new command. This was the command to love one another as he loved them. It was a new command at the time.
Many years later John is reminding his readers of this command, yet it is no longer a new command, it is an old command they had heard before. So the command to love one another as Jesus has loved us is both a new command and an old command. New at the time Jesus gave it. Old now because we have heard it before.
Underneath all the confusion there really is a very powerful message to us from God. It is the message that God wants us to love one another. Not just with any old type of love…but a love defined by the example of the way Jesus loved us.
And how did Jesus love us? Well he sacrificed himself on the cross so we could receive forgiveness and eternal life. So Jesus loved us with a self-sacrificial love. This is the key. Jesus wants us to love one another also with a self-sacrificial love. A love that loves enough to make real sacrifices for one another.
In our culture often we get distracted by thoughts of spiritual accomplishment…spiritual achievement. Have I read the Bible today? Have I prayed today? Have I gone to church this week…or attended Bible Study?
Perhaps a better question to ask at the end of each day is, Have I loved others today with the same love Jesus has loved me with?
Try it this week. At the end of each day evaluate your day based on how you have loved others. John calls this “living in the light.”
A few verses later in 1st John 2:10, he writes, “Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”
Sounds to me like loving others is a path to experiencing much greater power in our relationships with God.