7 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. 8 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. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
There are a number of ideas here that deserve our attention, such as the continuity of Old and New Testaments, or the newness that comes with the Advent of Christ. Also familiar are the contrasts that John uses through his letters, and his gospel, too. What stands out here, though, is the complete incompatibility of the contrasts he presents.
Light and hate are incompatible. If someone claims to have the light of insight or understanding, but has hate in his heart, he is wrong. Love and darkness are likewise incompatible. If a person has love in their heart, they have light in their life.
Of course, this could get simplistic and mystical and ridiculous rather quickly if we did not see it through the lens of Christ. But notice from verse 8 that the commandments are true “in Him . . . .” God is the giver of commandments and Christ truly fulfills the law. Also, “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” Remember from chapter 1 that “God is light.” And darkness is passing because Christ has defeated sin and death at the cross, and He is the True Light who is shining.
It is actually refreshing that this passage emphasizes the incompatibility of love and hate, of light and darkness. The Yin-Yang symbol of Chinese Taoism has two intertwined paisleys, one black, one white. Within the black paisley is a white dot, and within the white paisley a black dot, reflecting the Taoist belief that nothing is ever completely bad or completely good; it always contains an element of its opposite. Hollywood teaches the same thing, with more and more villains who are as wicked and cruel and brutal as ever, yet whose stories are told from a sympathetic point of view. They are the victims of circumstance. They have been hurt. They do what they do because they have suffered.
Scripture maintains the distinctions between light and darkness, between love and hate, between good and evil. Of course, as fallen creatures we are sinful and God is holy. There is a profound incompatibility there. But earlier in chapter 2 we learn that Christ is our Advocate, where we could not defend ourselves. He is our Propitiation, turning aside the wrath of God and reconciling us to Him. In Christ, we cross over from darkness to light. Praise Him! And following Christ’s commandment, we must also forego hate for love.