Preacher: Ray S Anderson

Date: October 14, 1962

Text: John 2:7-11


Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. Yet 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. He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. But he 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.

Our Father, this evening we recognize these simple words speak to us of one of the most profound truths of the Christian life, and the profundity of the truth is simply that we either walk in darkness or light - there is no middle ground. And with God who is light there must be light in the Christian's life.

O God, grant this evening that as we struggle with this truth the very struggle shall produce enough - the fruit of love. This we pray in Jesus' name.

I read somewhere not too long ago that the British statesman Lord Morley came from England to Canada to speak to Canadian University students. His opening words were these: "Gentlemen, I have traveled over 4000 miles to tell you there is a difference between right and wrong." Now I'm certain that he didn't immediately turn and leave. I'm certain that though he prefaced his remarks with this truth - which certainly wasn't novel - I'm certain that those students still waited for what he had to say. For is it not true that we recognize that that which is old, that which is universally true, that which has always been true, is perhaps the most relevant for today. In fact, somebody else has said that the truth needs to be stated again every twenty years. And certainly that which is always true always needs a new image for every generation.

So John tells us at the outset this evening, "I'm not writing to you anything novel. Don't think that because I'm going to speak to you under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that you're going to hear something you've never heard before. You know this, this commandment, that I'm going to give to you is from the beginning; the old commandment is the word you have heard before. And yet it has a new expression." Even though we know this evening John is going to speak to us of familiar things, that God is going to begin with those things we already know, yet we are here, our hearts are attentive, because in the context of the old, in the context of that which we know, we wait for God to speak to us of new things, of new ways to live according to the old.

Now John has already stated for us in chapter 1 the basic condition of the Christian life. In verse 7:

If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanses us from all sin.

John meant for the new Christian to understand that he dare not even call himself a Christian unless he has met this condition. It is far easier to say, “I’m a Christian," than to profess by your life that you are walking in the light of God. We saw in our discussion last week that to walk in the light is to walk in the dimension of God's holiness. It is to walk measured by the will and moral nature of God. Of course this produces sin. Of course it reveals in our hearts all sorts of wretchedness and imperfection. Sin can be dealt with; sin can be forgiven. And the new Christian must remember this, that he must not fear sin as much as he fears the deceit of perfection. We must remember that it is the light of God's presence that reveals sin. It is the grace of God's mercy that forgives sin. And thus the new Christian always has fellowship, and he always has assurance if he walks in the light. If he doesn't walk in the light, he can somehow convince his own heart that he's all right, and then he has shut himself off from God's grace. And when the Christian is shut off from God's grace, he loses his assurance and he loses his fellowship.

The light is the ultimate reality of God. But John is no theorist; John is not content to speak of ultimate realities and then leave us to shift for ourselves. So in chapter 2 he takes the new Christian on his second step, and that is the step of understanding in a practical way what it is to walk in the light. John represents the light in terms of a concrete human situation. And perhaps this is the essence of the new - just this - that the individual's relationship with others is the very expression of his relationship with God. This is perhaps all that he has to add to what is already known. He has told the new Christian that unless he walks in light he will have no assurance and no fellowship. You want to know whether you are walking in the light or not? Here's how you know: if you love your brother, you are walking in the light. If you hate your brother, you are still in darkness, no matter what your confession is, no matter what your confession of faith amounts to, no matter what accoutrements you have added to your life of a religious nature. If you are walking in hatred toward your brother, you are still in darkness. Here's how you know. Put yourself to the test. Here's a practical test of faith. There's always a tendency for the Christian to abstract his faith from reality and to speak of doctrines and creeds, and to speak of theology rather than moral truth. John proposes for us a simple test of love and hate; he's going to suggest that hate is the heresy that enters into a Christian's life.

Let's take a few verses in this Scripture reading and consider them carefully. It isn't a very long Scripture passage, not terribly profound from the standpoint of new truth. John says, "I have only one new thing to add to the old commandment." But in the development of four verses (8-11), you will see a marvelous opening up of love, love as the actual working out and the expression of the Christian life. Consider verse 8: John prefaces this verse by saying,

... 1 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.

Could we say this that for John love is the interpretation of light? Walk in light. God is light. John is saying to us that love is the interpretation of light. The darkness is passing away; the light has already come. And if we can walk in love, which is true in him and in you, we will have this certainty: we are walking in the light.

Jesus is the law of love personified. His very life was an eloquent testimony to what it is to love. He left it for others to define love; he loved. Jesus revealed the extent to which love reaches. In Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 18, we discover just how old the commandment of love is. Here in the very foundation of our Bible, from the standpoint of Mosaic legislation, the Old Testament, we find given to us the law of love: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus didn't add any novel thing when He said, "Love your neighbor," but Jesus revealed the extent to which love reaches when he describes His neighbor as the sinner.  Jesus said, "I did not come to call the righteous; I did not come to pour out my love for those who deserved it, but I cam to teach the love of God reaches out, and its boundaries are so broad to embrace the sinner.  This is a tremendous revelation of the extent of God's love.  This is the new thing, that the sinner is loved of God.

Who would have dared to believe that? What sinner would have dared to state, "God loves me"? It remained for Jesus Christ to move among sinners and touch them, to talk with them, to accept them, to forgive their sins, to heal them, to call them into his own fellowship as disciples. It remained for Jesus to demonstrate love as it reached out to sinners, but it remained also to Jesus to reveal the length to which love would go.

In Matthew 5:38-41 we find Jesus demonstrating the difference between the old and the new. Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, 'Do not resist one who is evil' (This was new!). 'But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also' (This was new!); 'and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well' (This was new!); 'and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.'

And all that He was trying to do with these hyperbolic statements was to state the extent to which love would go in order to stay with the sinner. If in reaching the sinner, the sinner is disobedient, rebellious, Jesus taught that He'd stay with them. When his disciples gave Him every reason to discard them and take a new bunch, the Scripture says of Him,

Having loved his own, he loved them to the end.

There are no reservations with this love.

Love is the interpretation of light, the interpretation of God's nature, the light of eternal trust. There's a hymn we sing quite often; we sang it this morning in our church, number 122: 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,' the words written by John Greenleaf Whittier:

Sabbath rest of Galilee, 

Calm of hills above Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee, Silence of eternity interpreted by love.

Have you ever noticed those words when you've sung the hymn, the 'Silence of eternity interpreted by love'? The eternal truth of God's love and the joy of God's heart, the purpose of God's design ­all of this revealed and interpreted to us by love. Is it any wonder that the Scripture speaks of the fact that God is love, interpreted to us by Jesus Christ, and all that our heart desires to know about our future destiny and about those intimations that well up from within us - all these deep needs have been met by the interpretation of God in Jesus Christ. He taught us that the human soul is of infinite value, that the very hairs of our head are numbered; He taught us that if God cares for the lilies of the field, how much more does He care for us? He taught us that sin is no failure to eternal life, because sin can be forgiven if there is repentance and honesty.

This is more than poetic expression. True light is already shining, John says, and it is the glory of the Christian that he has not only a premonition; he has already the first fruits of eternity in his life.


Love is the interpretation of light. It's the anticipation of the future. Even as Paul said in I Corinthians 13, that great hymn of love,

Now I know in part; then shall I know even as I have been known.

Even as God now has understood me, so shall I understand Him. And the interpretation of love gives us the light of eternal truth which shall someday be brought to perfection. "I am writing a new commandment which is true in Him, and is true in you." The law of love works for Christ as it works for us. It interprets to us the light of God's presence; the total moral dimension of the Christian life can be found within the law of love. Everything that god requires of man can be discovered in the law of light, can be understood by applying the law of love to our human life and our responsibility to God.

Now, moving to verse 9, of course He has prepared the way for this, because He has spoken of light and darkness:

He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.

He's never moved out of it. Let's suggest here that love is the implementation of the Christian's faith. To implement something is simply to expedite it, to actually bring that which was first an idea now into reality. Verse 9:

He who says that he is in the light ....

He's speaking here of the profession of faith, the person who says, "I belong to God; I have confessed Him as my Savior." All right, then, love is the implementation of that faith. It's the service of love that proves that faith is real and vital. A person may accept Jesus Christ, based on God's Word

To as many as received him, to them he gave power to become sons of God, even to those who believe on his name.

On that basis a person can accept Jesus Christ as his Savior and call himself a child of God and state that he is now walking according to the light. He has every reason to state that. Yet once that profession of faith is made, if that person fails to walk in light, everything that he has said is discredited. Failure to love is indisputable evidence that there has been no conversion - in darkness still. Here we quibble and say, "That's rather drastic. After all, who can tell where the boundary line between love and hate is? If you're going to be this drastic and say that the person who does not love but hates his brother has never been converted despite his profession of faith, will you please tell me what the difference is between love and hate." This sounds rather like the Pharisee - when Jesus was talking about loving his neighbor, the Pharisee said - now this is interesting - "Who is my neighbor?" Sounds almost like that, doesn't it?

Let me ask you a question. Do you know when you are hated and when you are loved? When you're in relationship with another person, do you have any doubt at all that they need you or love you? No, you don't. Your own heart has an intuitive insight into hate and love. You may not be able to define it, but you know whether you are hated or loved. This gives you the capacity to understand whether you are hating or loving.

Just turn that around. If you know instinctively when someone hates you, you certainly have the capacity to tell whether you're hating anyone else or not, by the same test. What is it that you hate? Hate concerns our attitude towards those closest to us. Hate is a matter of how we look upon another, how we relate ourselves to them. To ignore a person is to hate them. It's to simply exclude them. It's to live with a person closely and then go on as if your whole life were centered in your own heart. You make all your own decisions. Well, perhaps this person has an interest in the outcome. For a husband and wife to ignore each other is to hate each other, because you cannot ignore someone without hating them.

I have a friend who works in a gas station. I spoke with him about the relationship he has with his customers and said, "It must be rather a frustrating thing to wait on people day after day and never really have a chance to talk with them." "No," he said, "on the contrary. We have many customers who are close friends; and when they drive in, we immediately pick up conversation; we share things. And it's rather interesting to look forward to them coming in." I said, "It doesn't seem to me that this happens at very many gas stations. Most places I've been to, it's just a matter of 'Fill 'er up and check the oil and water. Clean the windshield.' You kind of ignore each other, and off you go. "Oh yes, "he said, "we have those too. You soon learn, and you wait for the customer to share himself. And, of course, if all he sees is a station attendant who is getting paid for washing his windshield and filling his gas tank, there'll be no conversation, no sharing, because a person cannot be friends with a station attendant who you pay for something. But you can be friends with a person." Suddenly, I realized why I have no friends in a gas station. It's not because invariably they are unfriendly sort of people; it's because I had simply ignored them. I had hated them, in a sense. This is what it is to love; it's to see a person and not a job.

To scorn a person is to hate them. To belittle either who they are or what they do in a way that leaves you untouched is to hate them. How often, I wonder, in our relationships do we secretly look at another person and say, "Well, I rather pity them. What a mess they're making of this job." Or, "Why don't they realize they have no talent for this." That's hate. To scorn another person is to hate them. Certainly, love cannot exist in something like that.

To compete with a person is to hate them. "Now," you say, "you're going too far, for business is premised on the very fact of competition." Of course. In business you are competing not with a person; you are obeying the law of economics that through the dialectic of give-and-take you usually arrive at that which is just for all. Anytime you compete with a person in a fellowship, it's of hate. Many homes are only backgrounds for emotional competition, and in the ravage of that war there's always a victor and there's always one defeated. There's always someone left on the floor, emotionally speaking, in this competition. And that's hate. It has to be, because any time one person is decapitated at the expense of another in the area of personality, this is not love.

In John 5:24 John has already said in his Gospel,

By this we know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren,

and in I John, chapter 4, verse 7, he says,

Beloved, let us love one another ~ for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.

The person who loves has the right to think of himself as born again. The person who hates his brother can say all that he wants, but his own walking in darkness is a testimony to the fact that he is unconverted. In verse 10, chapter 2, John is speaking to new Christians; he is trying to help them get their feet on the ground. He doesn't want them to be swayed by all sorts of other formulas for Christian growth. Verse 10,

He who loves his brother abides in the light ....

Take out the word brother and cause that thought to flow together, and you have a tremendous thought.

He who loves ... abides ....

He lives in the light. He remains in the light. He is carried along by this love. He has security. He has assurance. And his life has stability.

He who loves ... abides in the light....

Love is the inspiration of Christianity.

He who loves ... abides in the light, ... and there is no cause for stumbling.

I am sure that here is where the casualties come in in our conversions. I spoke of the individual who is left to make a decision on the basis of God's Word,

To them who received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God.

That verse is claimed, and the person makes a decision for Jesus Christ. And if we have had a part in it, we rejoice because another person has entered the Kingdom of God. Six months later, nothing has happened. The person is still living in the world, still outside the Christian fellowship, making absolutely no progress, not the slightest interest. In fact, now added to all of their discouragement, they have guilt, because they have made certain promises to God that they can't fulfill. Casualties of discouragement. John says,

he that loves ... abides ... ;

he that begins loving is able to continue and to live within the decision he has made.

Love is the one thing that promises growth, and the new Christian doesn't have to be taught to defend himself. He has to be taught how to love. I think over the past year I can think of four or five older ministers who at one time or another have shared this either with me or in a group, that early in their ministry or early in their Christian life they were militant in defense of the faith. They were fighters. They felt they had been called to a ministry of defending the faith, and they gave their life and ministry to proving heresy in others. Then these men, mature Christian men now, confessed that they find their ministry now one of love, not of fighting, and they are sorry they wasted so much time trying to prove something and defend God.

Now I have sensed that almost everyone moves toward love - almost everyone. Every Christian, as he matures and lives his life, begins to become more loving in his relationships and less harsh and rigid. I don't think this is a weakening of faith. I think they are moving irresistibly in the place where Christian growth leads them. It has occurred to me - why not begin to love? And if you're somewhat impatient with so constantly reiterating this theme, you have greater reason yet to lose patience, because I intend to begin with love. To me, the answer seems to be to take a new Christian who has made a decision for Jesus Christ and then teach him how to love, to show him that the inspiration that love is will keep him moving toward God, will keep him in the place where he can grow and mature and develop.

Love inspires by bringing an immediate response to our need. We have spoken to a new Christian concerning the forgiveness of his sins, and we have given him reasons to believe that according to God's Word it is true that

if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.

We say to a new Christian, "See, your sins are forgiven. God has accepted you." And the new Christian says, "That's wonderful. That's marvelous." And he goes home and his heart is filled and his heart is lifted up because of this great truth. Then the next day, the next week, he lives his life, and he continues to fail occasionally, and his old sins come back, and he begins to doubt the fact that he's really forgiven. Now, how does love work? If an individual is being carried along by love, he's part of a Christian fellowship. And in that fellowship he finds acceptance, and that acceptance becomes the grace of God that demonstrates to him the fact that his sins are forgiven. A new Christian who has not been accepted in love in a fellowship will soon begin to doubt that God has accepted him. This is how we're built. Love inspires by giving an immediate opportunity to share. The new Christian, out by himself, can study his Bible. He can learn doctrine. He can buttress his decision with great Biblical truth, but he has no opportunity to gain dignity in giving, in sharing, in being a part of another person's life, in ministering to their needs.

Love inspires by giving us a constant awareness of God. I John 4:12:

No man has ever seen God.

By the way, have you forgotten that?

No man has ever seen God.

You haven't. Not one of you. I haven't. So, how do you know that God is? How do you know that God is a presence with you. You've never seen him. No man has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us. That's so simple, isn't it? That sounds like something we would teach our three- and four-year olds. It's so simple that it must be true for the nursery. If anyone loves, God abides in him, because God is love. No one has ever seen God, so if you love, God is in you. We think we have progressed because somehow we have a more mature concept. My friends, we haven't progressed a bit. Only in loving is God in us. Now you see why hate is heresy? It's heresy because if there is no love there is no God. There just isn't. No man has ever seen God, and if his heart is filled with hate, he has never known God. And God does not exist for him, has absolutely no existence. I wonder how many professing Christians have no God because they are not living and abiding in love.

We should not fear love, because love does include the cross. Conversion is the beginning of Christian experience. Repentance for sin and faith in Jesus Christ - this is the beginning of love. We should not fear love, because love keeps us in the place where we can be inspired to grow. It interprets for us the eternal truths of our relationship to God. And as we love and fulfill our faith in loving, we implement our faith and our experience. We put it into practice. As far as I am concerned, those who cannot love are not converted. I say this not in a way of judging their hearts; I simply say it because I dare not make the promise that they are. I dare not stop with an individual just because he's made a profession of faith. If he fails to love, as far as I'm concerned, nothing has happened.

I talked with a man one day, and he said, "You know, I just walked around the block for five minutes, and I led three people to the Lord." This is beyond me. He walked into their lives, and he walked out again with a pat on the back. He had led three people to the Lord. I don't understand this, because I've prayed with some, and they've confessed faith in Jesus Christ, and they're gone. This very evening they are sitting in their homes. I could take you to their homes, and I could ask them in front of you, "Didn't you confess Jesus Christ a few months ago and pray earnestly for God to save you?" And they would answer, "Yes." Well, what's happened? Nothing. It doesn't make any difference now, as far as I'm concerned. Nothing has happened. Maybe something has. Maybe, God knows, but I dare not think something has happened, because the Scripture says if they do not love, God does not abide in them. They are not a part of love.

Some have said of us, "You are teaching such a thing as will produce cliques in your church." Fine. This is what I'm after, because unless a person has been a part of a clique, he has not learned how to love. And I have discovered that the only people who grow as Christians are people who are a part of cliques, who are part of a fellowship which says, "Let's get together in our home and share things. Let's share our lives with each other." Of course an individual walking into such an atmosphere would say, "Well, you have a bunch of cliques here; we can't break into them." Oh yes, you can. But you can't buy cheaply what has cost them a lot. But you can break into them the same way others have done.

You know what a clique is, don't you? A clique is a derogatory term for a fellowship of love. A clique is a group of people who have found the joy of sharing their lives. They have found they have a great deal in common, and they have found that when they're together they inspire each other; they encourage each other. Now then, of course, the term clique has a derogatory stamp, and rightly so in some cases, because when a little group of people who have found this love simply live and camp there and don't think of anyone else, then this becomes self-centered. If there were no cliques, which is to say, if there were no groups in our church where love is a reality, I would be seriously disturbed. It doesn't bother me too greatly when an individual says, "Your church has such a concept of fellowship that you sort of feel like a stranger unless you're a part of it." Well, good. Because then it's going to either force them to enter into this same type of relationship, in which case they're going to grow for the first time in their Christian life, or, perhaps, in some cases they will seek another fellowship where it's easy to be anonymous. It's not easy to be anonymous in our fellowship. Not one bit. But it's easy to be loved.

You know how to start a clique? I'll tell you. Get in a group that's working, and work with them. Get into the choir, and come every single Wednesday night for about a year and sing with those folks when you're tired and half sick. Sing when you'd rather not sing. Be at practice when you should be at home, but be faithful and bind yourself to those people. Soon you'll find yourself hunting them up when you're here on Sunday, wanting to talk to them, loving to be in their homes. It's the only way that love works, and it costs a great price. You'd like to start a clique? All right, get on a work crew. Work every Saturday for about twenty five weeks in a row and build a church. Let your own lawn go and have to re-seed it next year. Work out here in sweat and labor, and after about twenty five weeks you'll find you'd rather drink coffee with those people than anyone else and that you have an immediate basis of fellowship. It's like being home to talk to them. There are a hundred ways to start a clique if you're not in one. I can show you several ways, but I've discovered that the people who can't get into cliques are those who can't love. You can't love, you won't grow.

Does this speak to some of you here tonight? It ought to, because this is what God's Word teaches. You have never seen God, not one of you. But if anyone loves, God abides in him. If our church can love God, God will inspire us, make us strong. God will reach out through us and bring in unloved people to be loved. God is love. In Him is no darkness. John says, "Little children, love one another." Let us pray.

O God, we pray this evening that these words will have been more tender than the human person could have made them. We would not for a moment presume to be able to judge the human heart. 0 God, how important it is for each of us that we be walking in the light. And if there are some here this evening who are walking in the twilight zone, that too is darkness. Even in this moment, with an abandon of their heart, they may come to Jesus Christ, there to be loved by Him, there to become a part of His love, a part of a fellowship which is an extension of His love.

O God, we thank you for the strength of love that convinces our hearts that God is love. Forgive us where we have walked in darkness. Bring us back to the light so that God may abide in our hearts with clarity and our life be transparent before Him. This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.