This morning my Bible reading was in John 13. John 13:34-35 are two verses that form the foundation for the book of 1 John -- a book we will be studying in my Greek 2 class shortly. How is Jesus' "love command" a new commandment? Wasn't it already found in the Old Testament? The answer is here in John 13:34-35.
"I am giving you a new commandment: Love one another. In the same way that I have loved you, so you are to love one another. By this will all people know that you are disciples who belong exclusively to me, if you have love among one another." This forms the perfect foundation for the Johannine letters. The theme of 1 John, of course, is "Doing the Truth by Living in Love."
It's not enough to know the truth. We have to "do the truth" (this is a Hebraism). As such, studying the book of 1 John is an opportunity -- to listen to God, to get our bearings, and to again draw near to him. The book of 1 John forces you to confront yourself, including those "diehard sins" in your life.
It drives you to examine what really matters. It forces your fears and values and sins and insecurities out of the shadows and into the light. I believe that's the great thing about Christianity: Jesus Christ jumped into this world to save us from ourselves. He wants to offer us the love and care and strength and acceptance we're searching for. It starts by looking and listening to his word, then contemplating what you see in the light of God. As Rush Witt reminds us, the "small sins" that people commit are not different from the ones I often ignore or rationalize. I sometimes fool myself into thinking that only the "big" transgressions matter and that following Jesus can be separated from following his righteous pattern of life in very ordinary, everyday ways.
In the end, studying 1 John in Greek is not about Greek. It's about life. We can't just casually walk away from Christ's words. They require our personal attention. Our response to his message for us in 1 John will mark the difference between life and death.