In 1 John 2:7-8 the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John) tells his friends that the command he is writing is not a new one but the old one they have had from the beginning. Yet at the same time it is a new command “because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (2:8). So what we seem to have is two commands that are the same yet different. Hmmm. The newness of the old command is seen in that darkness is turning to light. I recommend a good commentary to learn how this seeming disparity can be handled. But for our purpose, I’d like to think together about the passing of darkness and the dawn of true light.
John’s metaphor of light replacing darkness is powerful because it uses a natural phenomenon (the dawning of a new day) to picture change in a positive direction. For John it is the dawn of the new age that makes it the true light. Loving God in the preparatory stage before the coming of Christ was a bit more formalistic than personal. I don’t question the authenticity of the love of Old Testament patriarchs, it is simply that our fuller knowledge of God, made possible by the incarnation of the Word and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, provides a brighter atmosphere for Christian living. The “darkness” of a limited knowledge of God prior to the advent of Christ disappears when in the life of a believer the bright dawn of the eternal state begins. And the crucial point in time when this became possible was the incarnation of the eternal Son of God. With Christ the eternal enters time. The believer lives in eternity (has already passed from death into life) although he is still trapped in the semi-darkness of the transition.
How then does life change when a person opens his heart to Christ? The context of this experience has emphasized one particular quality – love that is expressed in obedience (vv. 3, 5, 6, 10). The dawning light of a new faith reveals one’s natural fixation on self being replaced with concern for others. The essence of the Christian faith being worked out in the lives of believers is a sensational move from self-concern to the welfare of others. God has come into our world with the power of love to change forever the way people are to live. John is right, it is an old command, but at the same time it is “new” in that the norm for tomorrow has become the new expectation for today.
Hopefully, that doesn’t seem hopelessly theological. The simple truth is that the yesterday’s darkness has been replaced by tomorrow’s new light. The “Let there be light” of creation has become the “Let there be light” of salvation. Morning came with the historic advent of our Savior and keeps coming in the lives of those who turn to him. The light of love is displaying the darkness of indifference.