RELIGION COLUMN: It must be both old and new

Published 9:49 am Monday, March 31, 2014

By Jake McCall

As a child, there was a particular gun of my dad’s that I always admired. It was a 20-gauge shotgun, and the reason it stood out was because it was a pump-action shotgun with a beautifully carved walnut stock. A few years ago my Dad gave it to me as a gift, and though I had not seen it in years, I immediately knew it was the old gun that I had always loved. All of a sudden this old gun became new. I no longer just admired it from a distance, but it now had a new meaning because it belonged to me.

In the Apostle John’s letter, he speaks of a commandment that is both old and new when he says, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining“ (1 John 2:7-8).

This commandment that John is referring to is a commandment to love, and it is old because it is the commandment that has been in place since the very beginning. And yet this old commandment is new because Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive in the believer’s heart.

Therefore love finds its beginning in God. Love is ancient and does not need us to redefine it, nor does it need us for it to continue. It has always been and it will always be, simply because God has always been and always will be. Love also has a new meaning and a new action in the risen Christ and in the new birth. This is to say that this love that is from the beginning should not be something that is distant, impersonal or selfish because God, in Christ, has come near to us and he did this to display true love.

As this old commandment becomes new in our hearts, John says it will be clear because we will love others. So I want to just briefly sum up what John is saying. The commandment of love must be both old and new for you and me. It must be old in that we don’t get to define it and we don’t get to base it on feelings or emotions. It is defined in God’s Word and it is a commandment. It must be new in that we must know the risen Christ, not from a distance but as the One who has given us new life.

If we are not loving others sacrificially and selflessly, then this commandment is only old and we have not been personally transformed by the love of Christ. If we only love when it feels right or when we are “moved” then it is only new and it will fade because it is not the ancient, perfect love of God.

Yes, God is love, and we can count on the perfect love of God in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Why did Christ do that? He did that because his love for us is ancient (before the foundation of the world), sacrificial (he gave his life), and personal (he knew us by name while on the cross).

—Jake McCall is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. He is the pastor at Grace Fellowship Presbyterian Church. His column appears each Thursday.