Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. – 1 John 2:10 ESV
When it comes to this one verse, it seems the commentators are somewhat divided. It seems simple enough, but the last phrase is interpreted a variety of ways. For instance, the New Living Translation paraphrases verse 10 this way: “Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.” It puts the emphasis on those with whom we interact. The person who walks in the light loves as Jesus loved, and his life provides no reason for those around him to stumble or fall. But there is also the sense that the stumbling being referred to here is aimed at the one who loves his brother. When we love as Jesus loved, sacrificially and selflessly, it is a byproduct of abiding in the light of Christ’s love. And His light illuminates our path so that we can see where we are going. It would seem that this view is the most accurate, because the very next verse reads, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walk in the darkness and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11 ESV). When we hate or, better yet, fail to love, we are NOT abiding in the light. As a result, we find ourselves walking in the dark, unable to see the obstructions, the sins, of our own lives. We can’t see our pride, arrogance, self-centeredness, and selfishness. The whole idea of the light is that it reveals or exposes the darkness. It is what David was asking God to do in his life when he wrote Psalm 139. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV).
But while the second interpretation may appear to be the most accurate, I believe they both have relevance. An individual who lives his or her life in the dark, outside the influence of the light of Christ, will inevitably stumble. Because they fail to spend adequate time in the Word, allowing it to penetrate their lives and expose their sin, they will grow comfortable with the darkness in their life. As they walk outside the influence of the light, they will find their hearts increasingly darkened by unrepentant, unconfessed sin. But when these kinds of individuals stumble and fall, their actions have a ripple effect. If one person walking in the dark falls, all those behind him are likely to fall as well. When he goes down, he takes others with him. The same is true of our walk with the Lord. When we fail to abide in Christ, we will inevitably find ourselves in the dark. John reminds us “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected” (1 John 2:5 ESV). We must know the word and obey it. We must read it and apply it. We must allow it to penetrate our lives and expose those hidden areas of sin to which we are blind. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV). The word of God is one of the primary tools He uses to guide and direct us. David expressed it quite succinctly. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105 ESV). Without it, we will find ourselves stumbling and falling. When we fall, we will take others down with us. When David lusted after Bathsheba, he was not living in the light. He stumbled and not only caused Bathsheba to sin, but eventually took the life of her husband so that he could have her as his wife. His fall was far from personal. It had wide-sweeping ramifications. One of the lies of the enemy is that our stumbles are of no importance. They don’t hurt anyone else. Our sins are harmless and of no consequence. But God would have us know that a life lived in the dark is far from isolated. It will have an influence on those around us. Our sins have consequences. Our choices impact others.
Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT). Our lives are to be an example to those around us. When we abide in the light, walking as Jesus walked, loving as He loved, we will not fall. Our sins will be exposed, not hidden, allowing us to confess them. We will enjoy the benefits and blessings of walking with God in the light of His Word, under the direction of His Spirit and with His Son interceding on our behalf every step of the way. The goal is that we would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10 ESV).