Tuesday, 24 March 2020
He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 1 John 2:10
In an initial read of this sentence, one may immediately say, “I understand. John’s words are clear.” But through a quick evaluation of possibilities of what it could mean, the waters may easily get muddied. Cambridge provides four possibilities to what John means –
“There are several ways of taking this. 1. He has in him nothing likely to ensnare him or cause him to stumble. 2. He has in him nothing likely to cause others to stumble. 3. There is in his case nothing likely to cause stumbling. 4. In the light there is nothing likely to cause stumbling;—the Greek for ‘in him’ being either masculine or neuter, and therefore capable of meaning ‘in it’. All make good sense, and the last makes a good antithesis to ‘knoweth not whither he goeth’ in 1 John 2:11 : but the first is to be preferred on account of 1 John 2:11. Yet in favour of the second it is worth noting that σκάνδαλον is commonly, if not always, used of offence caused to others.”
What may be on John’s mind as he wrote these words was what Jesus said in John 11 –
“Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.’” John 11:9, 10
If this is so, then Cambridge’s Option 4 is what is being referred to. However, the word used in John 11 is not the same as that being used here. Despite this, the thought is rather similar. Verses 9-11 show a progression of thought –
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
It is the light and the darkness which are the main subjects of each verse. They are given to contrast one another, just as Jesus spoke in John 11. Those states are brought about by either love or hate. When one hates, he is in darkness. When one loves, he abides in light. In hating, one has his eyes blinded. In a state of blindness, the person stumbles.
Therefore, John’s words show a uniting of the act of love of a brother and the state of abiding in the light. In such a state, there is no reason why he should stumble. In this, he is safe in his walk and can feel secure in his salvation. In verse 15 (and after), John will show that it is not love itself that makes one secure. There, he will speak of the love of the world – something contrary to “the love of the Father.” Therefore, the love of the brother (a love which is properly directed) is a sign of abiding in the light.
Life application: Notice that this verse says, “He who loves” rather than “He who says he loves.” John is making sure that this is a true heartfelt condition in the believer and not just a casual acknowledgment of an expected condition – “Yeah, I love Brother John, but….” There is no “but” and no other conditional argument to be posited here. In other words, we need to actively pursue the love we may not really be feeling until we come to the point that we really feel it.
It is far too easy to pay lip service to this concept and deprive ourselves of the true joy of brotherly love. And not only do we deprive ourselves of this joy, but we also keep a rift between us and the Lord. Darkness surrounds at least a part of what should be intimate fellowship with Him.
John says that such a person who truly loves his brother “abides” in the light. Rather than being a temporary pilgrim who steps in and out of the light, this person lives as a permanent resident in God’s presence which is absolute light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
There is also “no cause for stumbling” in a person who lives in constant love of his brothers. John Wesley says, “He that hates his brother is an occasion of stumbling to himself. He stumbles against himself, and against all things within and without; while he that loves his brother has a free disencumbered journey.”
Don’t feel bad if you know in your heart that you haven’t measured up to the command here. All Christians struggle with the challenge of loving an annoying brother, all struggle with the challenge of loving a bitter brother, and all struggle with the challenge of loving an antagonistic brother. The path of least resistance is to remove oneself from his presence, but the condition which brings about a real walk in the light of God’s garden is to demonstrate that high and noble love even to the one who is otherwise unlovable.
Heavenly Father, You have asked us to love those who are our brothers in Christ. But that seems like a giant hurdle at times. Help us to consider that Christ also died for them, they received that payment, and they are adopted as sons through faith. If You have accepted them, then how can we hate them? Give us the ability to do what often seems contrary to our will. Help us to love those who otherwise seem unlovable to us so that we will reflect the love You have already shown. Amen.