Commentary by Walter Albritton


March 4, 2007


Choose to Love or You Will Walk in the Darkness


1 John 2:7-17


Key Verse: Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. – 1 John 2:10


          People love a good fight. When I was young I got into a lot of fist fights. Mostly I fought with Harold. We had short fights during recess at school. Our schoolmates would gather round and cheer us on. They wanted to see blood.

          We fought with our bare fists so our knuckles got skinned up. We did not bother with body punches; our target was the other’s face. We knew the fight would be over once one of us got a bloody nose. Neither of us wanted a long fight so we were glad to hear the bell ring, calling us back to the classroom.

          One of my last fist fights as a boy was the shortest of all. Harold and I had insulted each other and quickly squared off to fight. Before I could land a blow he hit me between the eyes and the lights went out. I woke up flat of my back staring into the faces of laughing friends. That fight changed me. It cured me of wanting to fight.

          The biblical lesson in this is simple. Hate causes the lights to go out in our relationships with others. Choose to hate and we plunge into darkness. Hate robs us of the light to see where we are going. So John says that whoever hates walks in darkness.

          John teaches us that we have a choice. We can love or we can hate. When we love we walk in, and live in, the light. When we hate others, we stumble in the darkness. We can have light only if we choose to love.

          We should not think of love as a great achievement possible only to the gifted few. Rather we should think of love as something ordinary people can practice daily – when Christ is Lord of their lives. That is because love is the primary fruit of the Spirit when Christ has free reign in our hearts. Love is not something we “must do” in order to obey Christ’s commandments. It is something He does in and through us when we become willing to surrender to his will for our lives.

          When we married my wife did not know how to make dinner rolls. Her cooking skills were very limited. Across the street lived a dear older woman who took Dean under her wing and gently taught her how to make potato rolls. Mary did not talk down to my wife or make her feel embarrassed by her lack of knowledge about cooking. She loved Dean and praised her for catching on so fast.

          Fifty-five years later my wife remembers with joy the loving kindness of our neighbor. She still has the recipe for potato rolls that Mary gave her. Mary was an ordinary woman whose love made a lasting difference to a struggling young wife. Today Dean walks in the light of Mary’s love.

          Jim was a brilliant student I met in my first year in seminary. We became fast friends. He was five years older and took an interest in me. He invited me to study with him. I could not help him but he was an enormous help to me. He showed me the ropes and helped me to gain confidence in my own skills.

          By the end of the semester I realized my grades were much higher because of the many hours spent studying with Jim. Neither of us back then would have called this “love” but I know differently now. I was a much better student because Jim invested his time in me. His quite ordinary love made such a difference that I remember it more than 50 years later.

          John warns us not to love the world or the things in the world. Yet all of us are tempted to want the things that others have. We all want to keep up with the Joneses. And no amount of preaching against the desires of the flesh and pride in riches persuades us to become content with a simple life.

          What does help us is the example of ordinary Christians who love God and live quietly content with very little of this world’s goods. I think of Frank and Louise Pierce. They were hard-working folks who lived in a simple cottage that was always open to us. When others faced trouble, Frank and Louise were always the first to offer help. They seemed too busy helping other people to find the time to “feather their own nest.” The example of their love for others shines like a star in my sky and over the years has helped me resist many temptations of the flesh and the lust for wealth. Such love is indeed light to live by.

          Robert Frost once wrote about a certain man, “He was a light – to no one but himself.” His was a selfish light that brightened the path of no one but himself. John calls us to realize that to love as Jesus loved will cause someone to say, “You light up my life!” People can walk in such light. Hate shuts out the light, makes us blind, and causes us to stumble in the darkness.

          God gives us a choice. We can hate and walk in darkness, or we can love and walk in light. In the end, hate loses. Love wins. So choosing to love puts us on the winning team – in this world and the next.

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