There are many commandments in the Hebrew Scriptures, so it isn’t surprising that a teacher of the law asked the Lord Jesus Christ which of them was the most important.
The most important, replied the Lord, is this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And the second, intrinsically linked to it, goes like this: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31).
In giving that second commandment – love of neighbour – the Lord is quoting Leviticus 19:18, showing that this is no new teaching.
This point is made again by the Apostle John around 50 years later, when he stresses our duty to show particular love to our brothers and sisters in Christ (for example, 1 John 2:9-11; 1 John 3:11-15). “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning” (1 John 2:7).
Yet at the same time, John also affirms that this commandment is indeed new: “Yet I am writing you a new command” (1 John 2:8). How can the command to love be both old and new?
John explains it is “because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining”. What does this mean, and why does it make an old command new?
The light referred to by John is the light of Christ and His Gospel. This light is shining, and it is overwhelming the darkness of this world (John 1:4-5). As a result, more and more people are coming to faith in Christ – each day new people are being added to the family of believers.
We are called to show a particular love to this family of believers (John 13:35; Galatians 6:10). And every day there are more of them – new brothers and new sisters, in all parts of the world. The effect of the commandment to love our brothers and sisters is therefore always being renewed.
The commandment to love is old, but it is made new every time somebody, somewhere, is added to our Christian family.
By God’s grace and your help, Barnabas Aid seeks to fulfil this commandment by showing practical love to the family of believers wherever they are suffering and persecuted.