We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.1 John 2:3-8
7 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. 8 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.
Did you see “The Generation Game” on television recently? This classic game show is (or feels) almost as old as time itself, and has itself been regenerated many times. I remember the show being presented by Bruce Forsyth and Jim Davidson when I was younger, but this time around the show was presented by those former stalwarts of “The Great British Bake Off,” Mel and Sue. There’s been much written about the revival of this show on social media and in the press; apparently, despite its relaunch, it is very similar to the previous incarnations, which, depending on your view is either a very good thing or a very bad thing.
In today’s verses from John’s first letter, John focuses on God’s commands and whether these are new or old. Before he reflects too much on this point, however, he makes clear that in his view, keeping God’s commands is an indication of whether or not someone truly knows God. It is not possible, John maintains, for someone to say that they know (and follow) God, whilst simultaneously ignoring the commands that he makes on our lives. Once again, John uses the term “liar” to refer to such a person. On the other hand, if someone knows God and strives to obey his commands, then “love for God is truly made complete in them.” In other words, striving to lead a life that is obedient to God demonstrates that an individual truly loves God and wants to honour him in all that they do. John extends this by saying that if you want to see if someone genuinely loves God, then they will be striving to live as Jesus did, striving to reach the perfection of Christ.
John makes it clear that there is a continuation between the commands that Christ gives and those “old” commandments which the Jews amongst his readership would, in particular, be familiar with. The “old” commands have been around since the beginning, and would probably be most familiar in the Ten Commandments given to Moses. John stresses that what he is writing here is not replacing these commands but rather building on them. At the same time, the command is also new, since it has been interpreted by Christ and fulfilled through his death and resurrection. Whilst the old command dealt heavily in guilt and punishment, this new command is best characterised by love, specifically the love that Jesus has for all his followers, as seen in his willingness to die in their place upon the cross. The call that Christ makes on the lives of his followers is in a way new, and is evident in Jesus and his followers. As a consequence of Christ’s commands, the world is slowly beginning to change. Jesus is the light of the world, the one true light, the source of all goodness in the world. This light shines not only from Christ himself but from all those who chose to follow him, to honour him by living according to his commandments.
It’s not enough just to honour Christ with our words; we must also honour him with our actions. Those of us who claim to follow him have a responsibility to live as Christ did, and to be beacons of Christ’s light and love in the darkness of the world around us. Each day as I read the news it seems to be that this is more important now than at any point during my life. Let’s all strive to follow Christ and to be beacons of the true light in the world we encounter each day of our lives.