After realizing that we need to be walking in confession in order to avoid idolatry, John reminds us that Christ is our advocate. He also reminds us that Christ is the payment for our sins. In doing this, John begins to point out the ways that we can avoid various types of idols by expressing that we can have confidence that we know Him if we keep his commandments. His command is simple: that we love God and that we love others, which is the same commandment that Jesus gave his disciples in John 13 after washing their feet. Jesus tells his disciples that the world will know that we are his followers when we love one another. So then, John reminds us here in 1 John 2 that we are to love one another instead of loving the ways of the world, namely, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
The issue of idolatry is thick throughout the book of 1 John because, in its essential form, all sin takes the form of idolatry. John shows that, in the broad sense, the command to love one another shields and actively fights against the ways of sin. But, he cautions that there are many distractions that tend to take our eyes off of Christ and onto an idol. The ways of the world are distractions that take us away from following Christ. The distractions of the world are also shown to be taught by false teachers who popped up in John’s time and tried to trap God’s people. Yet, John reminds us solemnly that we need to actively abide in Jesus in order to have confidence when He returns.
So it seems that the command to not love the world is intimately connected with the command to love in order to abide in Him. What kind of things can we do to work against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life? The lust of the flesh can be anything that takes us away from serving God with our bodies. There are various sins of the flesh ranging from pornography, gluttony, misuse of the temple, etc., but all of them create an idol out of ourselves. The lust of the eyes can be anything from adultery, lust, coveting and the like. The pride of life can be anything ranging from coveting of possessions, misdirection of the purpose of your life and anything that involves you putting your interests in front of God’s. So, what can we do to fight against these various ways of the world?
John connects the command to love one another with not loving the ways of the world. John does this in order to show a simple and profound truth: The love of others and the active fellowship of believers is a strong offense against the ways of the flesh. When we involve ourselves intimately in the lives of our brothers and sisters—praying for them, walking with them and ultimately living life with them—we strengthen and encourage the body of Christ. Think about it this way: If we love someone, we should not be wanting to take their possessions from them. If we love our brothers, we will not want to covet their wives. If we love our sisters, we won’t lust after their bodies. If we love the body of Christ we will want to accomplish God’s plan for his people and not our own.
So how do we get from where we are to where God wants us to be? We need to be intentional about forgiving the people in the family of God. We need to be intentional about getting to know the people in our congregations. We need to be actively praying for everyone in our churches, especially the ones that cause huge problems. We need to give up our petty pride and pray for God to give us direction and motivation to follow his will for our churches, for our communities and for our lives. If we don’t go out of our way to truly love others and help the body of Christ thrive, then I am not too sure that we are following the command to love one another. Let us follow Christ in his command to love, because this is our worship.