“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” 1 John 2:7-8
When I was a teenager it became cool for a bunch of us, at the boarding school we were attending, to find and wear vintage over coats, suit coats, and ties. I guess someone had noticed that his father’s, or grandfather’s, old clothes were a match for the fashion trends currently in style and decided to save some money by borrowing some of them. Some of the rest of us, not having closets of vintage clothes to raid, instead started prowling thrift stores for others peoples cool cast offs.
Solomon was right, there’s nothing new under the sun. Especially when it comes to fashion, what goes around comes back around. Far sooner than you’d image the old becomes new again.
But the apostle John wasn’t thinking of the cyclical nature of fashion trends when he wrote our focus text nearly two thousand years ago.
The apostle begins by writing two sentences emphasizing to the early Christians that he’s not telling them anything new. It’s, in fact, so old that they’ve had it from the very beginning. But then it’s like he reconsiders what he just written and contradicts himself by saying that the commandment is new because of Jesus.
How can something be both old and new?
As we’ve already noted, in art or fashion it happens quite frequently. An artist finds something old and before you know it a gigantic old wooden gear becomes a new piece of modern art. A fashion designer finds something else and, wallah, suddenly a forgotten relic becomes the hot new accent for the next fashion lineup. But, more often than not, that old item is somehow different in the way it’s used and seen. The light of fashion causes us to see something new in the old and forgotten.
Even more this is true when it comes to the way the light of Jesus’ life shines and illuminates the truth of God’s law and the rest of the scriptures. Until we saw the realities spoken of in the law lived out in the life of Jesus we were far too likely to place limits on how far those truths could be applied to our lives. Until, Jesus came and opened our eyes to what love, and goodness, and truth really were, we were far too likely to accept poor substitutes and believe they were the genuine article.
But Jesus, without changing one jot or one title of God’s word, transformed everything. Because of him our eyes, like the eyes of the blind, have been opened to see new things in the earliest messages God ever sent to us.
O Jesus, keep opening our eyes to the wonderful things you’ve been telling us all along.