7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever 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. 1 John 2:7-14
“Beloved”, the first word here in verse 7, is my favorite word in the Bible. The idea that God took an action, a verb, and turned it into a name (that he calls ME!) makes my heart sing.
Today as I sat with him, I felt his whisper, asking me the question, “Why do you think I call people Beloved?”
Pondering at the inquiry inside me, I landed on a simple answer: So they know they are loved.
I believe that God calls us “Beloved” throughout the Bible so we remember that he loves us so much, he made it our name. So we would know that we are marked by it.
And if I think about it, I know that nobody loves like those who know that they are loved.
Yet on the flip side, nobody withholds love like those who are trying to earn it. They see it as something that has an end, a point where there is no more, like a wine bottle that is finished and then recorked, completely empty.
Those people who see love as something that runs out find themselves disbelieving that God could love them endlessly. If you love her, they think, then you must not have any left for me.
They quickly go back to trying to earn affection, from God and others, afraid to give it themselves.
John calls himself “The One Who Jesus Loved” over and over again in a different part of the Bible. He has confidence to say it because he believes it. The name sunk into him so deeply that in his letters, he can call us "Beloved" too, without worry that it would take anything away from his title.
John alludes to this in the later verses as well: the “old commandment” John is referring to is most likely the one we see in Mark, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment of all is:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Jesus answered in Chapter 12, verse thirty. Then, he added, "The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
John claims that this was the old commandment, and this is the new commandment. When we love God, we love those around us- one spills over onto the other. In a fun twist and turn, I think that when we love others, we love God more, too. These two commands are interconnected in ways that cannot be separated. The man asked for one commandment, the greatest one, and God gave him two commandments that cannot be separated: Love God, love neighbor.
Sometimes we make the mistake of believing that we can keep following Jesus and at the same time be holding a grudge against somebody. John reminds us how wrong this is when he talks about our brother. If we are following Jesus, then we love our family- end of story.
I am learning to let Jesus guide me, and when I do that, when I walk with him, he leads me to places I don't always want to see. Recently I stumbled onto a metaphorical pit that I had dug, and someone I had metaphorically put in it. It was someone I was frustrated with, holding a grudge against, secretly punishing, although on the surface and in life, all looked well. Where my life was lying, Jesus knew the truth.
When I find those moments, the stark realizations that there are brothers I am not loving, I feel myself standing on the edge of the pit I dug, looking down into the hole at the person I trapped in there with my anger. I can imagine Jesus coming up behind me, resting his hand gently on my shoulder, and reminding me of this: No matter what you did, he says, I never put you in a pit.
Love God, love neighbor.
It takes courage to send down a ladder, yet John tells us that this action leads us to the light, and that to remain in anger is to remain blinded.
My prayer today is that we would be honest about who is “in our pits”, and that we would confess and repent to God anyone we haven’t been loving in a way that honors him. Would we be brave, and love God, and our neighbors.