Western culture has exploded with concept of individualism. The breakdown of communities, families, and churches has primarily came from selfish wants and actions taken to fulfill them. Scripture calls us out to be more than people who are looking for the advancement of just ourselves. The Word of God challenges us to be about other people. To seek the well being of others to the point that we give of ourselves to help them.
DO NOT LOVE LIKE THE WORLD (1 John 3:11-13).
The apostle John had much to say about love. In the five books attributed to him (Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd, 3rd John, and Revelation), he speaks on love sixty-six times. John is even attributed the title of “apostle of love” because of the amount of attention given to love in his writings. It is no wonder that he brings our attention to the fact that “from the beginning” (vs. 11) we have heard a message on love. The beginning that John refers to is filled with meaning. First, it refers to the beginning of time as God tried to lead all people to love one another. Secondly, it finds itself in teachings of Jesus where he taught that we should love one another (cf. Jn. 13:34-35). Thirdly, it also signifies the message that these believers had received and first believed. Loving one another is not a new teaching to the Christian but is still constantly forgotten by many.
Once sin entered into the framework of life it began to wreck havoc. It destroyed the trust that two had in each other in the first marriage and only one generation later it showed its effects in mankind by murder. The first murder was a fratricide (brother killing brother). It happened as “Cain…slew his brother” (vs. 12). The reason was jealously that had been covered up by a false brotherly love. Cain’s example of “envy and malignity should deter us from harboring the like passion”(Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Peabody: Hendrickson).
This type of love is expected in the world since sin reigns in hearts of unbelievers. It should not be a surprise as we are told over and over again in the scripture that the righteous people of God will suffer all types of persecution because “the world hate you” (vs. 13). This should not bring any ill feelings though towards the people of the world but should encourage us to share the love of God that has come to us from God.
LOVE FOR OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST (1 John 3:14-18).
It can be difficult to get along with people that have personalities different than us. Their varying tastes and preferences may not go along with ours. The Scripture speaks that the love we have by the empowering of the Spirit that binds us together with people different than us as a physical body is unified but very diverse in its parts. Confidence of our conversion is evidenced in that “we love the brethren” (vs. 14). The Spirit of God enables us to love the unlovable and difficult. To not love but hate our brothers is evidence of spiritual “death” (vs.14) still residing in us.
Not only is death evidence of our own spiritual life but also makes us a “murderer” (vs. 15) of the capacity to have life in others. For example, to not share the gospel with a certain individual because of the background, ethnicity, job, or religion means that we may be eliminating their opportunity to hear the gospel because of our disobedience to love. Jesus also taught that to have hatred toward another was to receive punishment just as a murderer (Matthew 5:21-26).
The love of God on display at the crucifixion of Jesus is how we “perceive” (vs. 16) or know what love is. It is the sacrificial giving of God’s own Son that teaches us how the love of God is different from the love of the world. John 15:13 teaches that there is no greater love than laying down life for another. Christ gave up His life so that we may have life eternal. The example of God’s love through Jesus sets us up to then “lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn. 3:16). To genuinely love another we have to go beyond any selfish motives and give to the aid of those around us primarily and only to their benefit.
The writers of the New Testament did not have a word in the Greek language to describe the love of God. Two words in Hebrew were used to describe the love of God. In Hebrew, Hesed first described a steadfast and unfailing love and, aheb, described God’s love seen in blessings. Those two types of love were clearly scene by the New Testament writers but a new dimension of that love came when Jesus gave Himself for us. They took the unused Greek word agape, and defined it exclusively to God’s love. It would mean a sacrificial or self-giving love. This was a love unknown to the Greeks who only knew eros and phileos love. The love between lovers and the love between friends.
If God shown His love for us in the physical death of His Son then how can disregard the physical need of our friends and enemies? If we have “this world’s” (vs. 17) goods and we do not share with those in need then it would be hard to identify with the love of God. God does not turn a blind eye to the needy and neither should we? In fact the God works through us to meet the needs of those in need.
To say that we love somebody is easy. To show our love for someone is something quite different. John encourages us to “not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (vs. 18). Actions speak louder than words. Deed is synonymous to action as truth is to message. We may say we love people but do we go to meet their need physically and spiritually?
A HEART OF LOVE AND BELIEF (1 John 3:19-24).
Making displays of the love of God is a witness to our hearts and by it we “assure our hearts” (vs. 19). “Believers’ loving lifestyles show two things: that they are on the side of truth; and that their consciences are clear” (Utley, R. J. The Beloved Disciple’s Memoirs and Letters, Bible Lessons International). What we do in our life will not bring salvation but our salvation will bring good and love out of our life.
There comes times when we feel as though we have fallen underneath this banner of love and sometimes rightfully so. Whether our guilt is misplaced or appropriate, we are confident that “God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things” (vs. 20). Scripture teaches that our heart can be one of the most deceitful things in life (Jer. 17:9). We are confident though that in our failures to live up to God’s standard of love that God also knows our motives and intentions.
Guilt is a consuming and wearisome condition to have. If we have guilt we are distracted and turned inward into ourselves. Not only do we know that God knows our heart better than we do we also know the release that comes with realization of forgiveness of sins. To have our heart free from guilt gives us “confidence toward God” (vs. 21). Meaning that we fully confident of the Spirit’s guidance in our daily affairs.
Not only are we confident in our daily life of God’s favor but that we may come to Him in prayer. Since guilt distracts, a heart and mind set free from guilt can come to God in prayer focused on the need and have confidence that “whatsoever we ask, we receive of him” (vs. 22). Obedience to God can bring blessing but the best blessing is that we know God is pleased with us.
We must be obedient to God in order to please Him. This is done in faith for without it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). John explains that the commandment is belief “on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” (1 Jn 3:23). Obedience to the commandment without belief in the Son only brings a happy conscience without the knowledge of true salvation in Jesus. The only way to produce the love of God in us towards others is by belief in the Son of God.
The Holy Spirit dwelling in believers brings a common trait of self-giving love. “Hereby we know that he abideth in us”(vs.24) because we abide in His commandments. Christ-like love is evidence that God is in us and that we are in God.