On the second chapter of his first letter, John tells us to love our brothers. He says this is an old command, and it is true: more than likely, we have all heard this before. The first place we see this command is in one of the oldest books of the Bible, Leviticus, which was written at least fourteen hundred years before John was born.
Then John says that he also has a new command for us.
John is trying to tell us something new about the things we have already heard before. It is a review, as when someone goes back over a class he or she already took, to understand it better from a different angle.
If an adult were to take a fifth-grade math and science pop quiz, chances are his or her performance would not be as high as that of a fifth grader. Even though that person might have proficiently solved similar problems before, most people lack practice on these subjects and would need a thorough review.
We have heard about loving our brothers and sisters before, about loving those we disagree with and showing them Christ’s love, but maybe in our culture some of us lack practice on really loving each other well. So, we need to come back for a review. We need to go through the classwork one more time and give it a new try. That is what the apostle is asking us to do.
What makes this age-old commandment new? What is new about Jesus Christ’s love?
Jesus Christ is the only person who has been the perfect example of love to walk on planet Earth. To know how to love somebody well, we can look at His example. He is not a prophet, a teacher, or just a nice guy. Jesus is the Son of God come to Earth to live a sinless life—to show us exactly how to love.
Over the last decades we have removed Jesus from public conversation and kept Him out of the public square. We have replaced Him with celebrities. We can learn a lot from a successful person, from intelligent people in the arts and in music. But they are fallen human beings, just like us. Therefore, we no longer have a good example of what it looks like to love someone. Who is the example of love? Jesus is.