We saw yesterday that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. So if we are going to claim to have fellowship with him, then we need to be walking in that light with him. If we try to explain away his commands or blatantly ignore them and still claim fellowship with him, we are liars.
John then gives one specific example which he will get back to again and again in this letter. He says,
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; it’s truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. (2:7-8)
What is this old/new command? I think John is specifically referring to loving your neighbor, although as we will see in later passages, loving your neighbor goes a long way to proving your love for God too. In Moses’ law, God said to love your neighbor as yourself. That was the old command.
But the new command as seen in Jesus is this: to love one another, not merely as we love ourselves, but as Jesus himself loved us. (John 13:34-35)
In short, it is to know the love of God so much in our lives, that his love can’t help but flow out of our lives to others. And so John says that this truth is not just seen in Jesus, but in us who truly believe in him. For his true light of love is already shining in our hearts, while the darkness which formerly marked our hearts is departing.
Therefore, John says,
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him. (2:9-11)
All this links right back to chapter 1 verses 5-7. There is no way we can claim to have fellowship with God if we hate our brother. A person who hates is still walking in darkness, not light.
This hatred can manifest itself in bigotry or racism of course. It can also manifest itself in jealousy or envy. But one place it most often manifests itself is in unforgiveness. And many people stumble around in darkness, bound in bitterness and hatred because they can’t forgive.
And like I said before, for such people, it can be very easy to either try to explain away scripture or blatantly ignore it, all the while holding on to their hatred toward the person that hurt them.
But if we truly understand the love God has for us and the forgiveness he has extended toward us, can we truly hold on to that hatred?
A true child of God can’t.
Now I’m not saying that Christians should never struggle with unforgiveness. They do. And it’s not easy to forgive, especially when the pain is deep. But if you are truly born of God, you cannot simply stay in the darkness. You cannot make excuses for your hatred, saying things like, “What he did was unforgiveable. I can’t forgive. I won’t forgive!”
To say such things is to step out of light into utter darkness. And to claim to still have fellowship with God in that state is to make yourself a liar.
A true child of light will step out into the light and receive the healing touch of Jesus. And by his grace and power, they will forgive.
How about you? Is there someone you hate? That you can’t forgive? You can’t hold on to those things and have fellowship with God.
Healing will require time. It will require prayer. It will require emotional support from your brothers and sisters in Christ. It may require counseling. And it will definitely require the love and power of God’s Spirit working in your life. But stop making excuses, and step out into the light.
Until you do, you will find your relationship with God stunted, if not impossible.