Every Christian must live his or her life under authority. We are to live under the authority of the Bible, and under the authority of Jesus, and his Holy Spirit, and under the authority of God the father. We are instructed to live our church lives under the authority of our church elders and the wisdom that God flows through them. We are even to live our lives under the authority of secular governments as long as they don’t conflict with God’s authority (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17).
This can be a difficult task because we don’t always like what God wants us to do. Further, our human authorities are human enough to be quite wrong every now and then.
John metes out some of that authority in 1 John 2:7-8 when tells his readers that he is giving them both an old commandment and new commandment. In other words, he tells them that there is a commandauthority they are to respect. Typical of John in this particular letter, he doesn’t immediately identify that commandment. Instead, he moves quickly into a discussion of how hating one’s brother is a form of walking in sinful darkness. But his reference to a new commandment echoes the words of Jesus in the gospel of John 13:34-35. In that passage, Jesus gives his disciples the “new” commandment to love one another as he has loved them, and that this will show the world that they belong to him. Interestingly, most of the chapter before that specific command has Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. He is loving them in a service capacity. He then tells them to love each other as he has loved them.
This sheds a great deal of light on John’s unnamed old/new commandment and his statements about hating one’s brothers and walking in darkness. John is reminding his readers that they should be loving each other with works of service, and that if they are not doing so, but are instead actively neglecting them, then they are walking in darkness, and potentially showing the world that they may not belong to Jesus.
The larger point is that we are commanded to live in community with one another. This is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. The act of feet washing that Jesus taught was symbolic of loving by serving one’s faith community. So how do you follow that command to love others in your faith community? Do you serve in children’s ministry, or clean your church building, or invite others to worship, or freely give your tithe, or take meals to someone who is sick, or serve on workday, or greet new comers, or help at a small group? There are plenty of great opportunities!