EVENSONG SUNDAY 8TH October 2017 I John 2.1-17

1 John 2.1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.  
3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

 9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,     because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,    because you have overcome the evil one.
14 I write to you, dear children,     because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,           because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,     because you are strong,     and the word of God lives in you,     and you have overcome the evil one.
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives for ever.

I got up during the night recently and stubbed my toe in the darkness. It is better to walk in the light. We can avoid hurting ourselves and, perhaps, others, too. This passage is about walking in the light. First, we have to have received the light for ourselves.

The Bible says that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, Rom 3.23. We all fail to love God completely all of the time. We all fail to love others as ourselves all of the time.

John reminds us that Jesus has paid the price for our sins, so we are seen by God as sinless. When we sin Jesus is at our side like a legal counsel representing his client before God the Father. Jesus has freed us from the consequences of our sin, giving us access to God by His death for us on the cross. Jesus has freed us from the power of sin, by giving us His Spirit.

Forgiveness does not give us freedom to sin, but frees us to be able to follow God's ways better. To walk in the light, not in darkness, as John puts it.

John talks of a new command that is actually old. He was referring to Jesus' words after he had washed his disciples feet, the night before he was crucified, John 13. 34, ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ Jesus is holding out his humble, sacrificial, undeserved love as an example for His followers to imitate.

One of the old commands that John may have been thinking of is Leviticus 19.17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.

John warns against two types of sin. Hating a fellow believer, and loving the world. The Greek word translated hating is not as strong as ours. It means to love less, so could refer to an indifference rather than detesting someone.

This passage revolves around love. God's love for us, that he died for us on the cross to free us from sin and restore us to a right relationship with Him, and our love in return. Love is the litmus paper of true discipleship. It is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit, something that should be growing in our lives, even if it is slowly.

Receiving God's undeserved, unlimited love should cause Christians to love others, especially fellow believers. It should also cause the believer to turn away from the things that are not from God, called "the world" by John and others in the New Testament. John mentions " the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" v15. He says that these things are temporary but God is eternal.

John is saying that the true test of genuine faith is how we love others, especially fellow believers. I would like to suggest that there are two areas that this should involve.

Firstly what we do not do to them. Leviticus 19 refers to some such things. We don't criticise them, talk about them, wish them harm or do them harm. We are not even indifferent to them!

Secondly, what we do to and for them. We pray for them, encourage them, support them, emotionally and practically, when they are in difficulty, rejoice with them when things are good. This can apply this to fellow believers locally but also believers around the world, like those in the Philippines through the Bishop of St Albans' Harvest Appeal.

John encourages Christians that their sins are forgiven and that, as proof that they have true faith, they need to walk in the light, especially to obey God by loving one another. Let us walk in that light.