There’s an old tradition about the Apostle John that has always been accepted as true by the Church. In his later years his house would often be the gathering place for those wanting to talk to him, to see him, or to learn from him. When the crowd became large enough that it couldn’t be ignored he would go outside, raise his hands in the air and say these words, “My children, love one another.” Then he would go back inside.
We get that same spirit here in 1 John 2. This is a beautiful chapter in which John begins to unpack the new commandment of love. Actually, it isn’t new. It is the heartbeat of the Old Testament. But now it has taken up flesh in Christ Jesus. The law of love has become incarnate. But notice that John doesn’t make this “love” thing the starting point. No, this chapter starts off with these words, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” That may be surprising to you. It was to me when I first read 1 John years ago. But, if we have read the Gospel of John it shouldn’t. John sees love and light as synonymous with God. He sees darkness as the sign of sin and the enemy. He could have very well begun this chapter penning, “Children, I write this to you so that you may not live in darkness.”
Life is about darkness and light. John understood that to embrace Christ, to “obey his commandments” and to “abide in him” was to be in the light. But, to hate a brother or sister was to be in darkness. Sin in our lives crowds out the light of Christ and is an embrace of darkness. This is why John says, “I write this so that you may not sin.” John, who was such a lover, a teacher of love, a proclaimer of love knew that sin was the very power that sought to destroy the love that the Father had given his people. Sin, has one motif, one aim, and that is to make us not lovers on God and one another but lovers of darkness. And darkness blinds us.
But, love gives off the light of Christ. It illumines our way. It propels us to the obedience of Christ’s commandments. While sin’s aim is to cover up the light of love, love’s aim is to reveal the darkness and bring it into the glorious light of Christ.
I know that when I feel sin lurking in my heart, when I know it’s aiming to blind me I don’t need an over-simplified, “Don’t sin!” What I need is to have my heart illumined so that my sin can be revealed, so that darkness can be put to flight by the light of Christ. I imagine that what I really need is to hear those words from John nearly 2,000 years ago, a convicting and hopeful, “Love!” It is this commandment that drives away all sin, all fear, and unites us in faithful obedience to Christ.
Father Aaron Wright