1 John 2:7-9
A New Commandment
Leviticus 19:18 plainly states: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Some Christians are unaware of this. When they read that Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’” (Matthew 5:43), they assume that he was quoting the Old Testament. On the contrary, he was quoting a horrible misinterpretation of the Old Testament. God’s commandment was always to love one’s neighbor; Jesus changed nothing regarding that commandment, and for this reason, John could write, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.” The commandment John is speaking of is to love one another.
But then again something has changed—not the commandment itself but the context in which it is now understood, that being in the light of Christ: “At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you which is true in him and in you.” And why is this: “Because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” And what light is this “true light?” The true light is the new age that has dawned in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our Lord has changed everything and set everything on its head. The old world is on life support just as the Apostle Paul said: “For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). The gospel goes out and changes lives as people are reborn and transformed by the Holy Spirit as God’s people (the Church) witness to his saving power. So, yes, the commandment has changed in the sense that God’s people are now empowered by the Holy Spirit to do that which they could never do in their own power—die to self while loving the unlovable, even those who persecute them.
And then he gives God’s people another test of their personal growth, even the reality of their regeneration: “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” The fact of the matter is that we cannot love God and hate our brother. Of course, this refers to fellow believers, but we should not discount that this refers to unbelievers as well. Our Lord said, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you…even [pagans] do the same” (Matthew 5:46-47). Bear in mind that you are not required to have a “warm-fuzzy feeling” towards another but a desire of good will towards everyone which proves itself in deeds of mercy and compassion; take for example, the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus said from the cross: “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.” Never forget that.