Last week we studied the first of 3 tests for a Christian to know if he or she is truly part of the family. It was the moral test or the test of Righteousness.
This week is the test of Love, or the social test. Next week will be the test of Doctrine or the test of truth.
So, we’ll start right in! If you want to catch other weeks from the study of I John, go down to the tag cloud below and click on I John. It will bring up all the posts written so far from the newest to the oldest. usually, you can get a clue of what passage it is from the verses in the photo.
A recommended book by Dr. Boice at this point is The Church at the End of the 20th Century by Francis Schaeffer. I’ll mention it here because he referenced it often in this chapter on love.
The point of his book is that it is only Christ’s love that marks us as Christians both as individuals, but especially as the church, that people believe Jesus was sent by the Father and that we are indeed Christians.
How many times do we see some selfless act that can only be explained by Christ? In the right circumstances, it often will make the news. I find it interesting to hear the newspeople try to explain it. They rarely can, apart from it being a GOD thing or being something religious which leaves them hard-pressed to explain it.
This is the test John is talking about. Often, the 1st test gets explained away because motives for good living can be so problematic. We are often deceived ourselves by our own motives!
But living a life of true, self-giving love for another person or people? Now that is something else again! We can fake it once or twice short-term, but over the long haul, it can’t be faked! We get tired of faking it and explode somewhere along the way.
The Law of Love-vss.7-8
We are reminded that the law of love is not new. It is as old as the 10 commandments! They are a summary of the Law of Love.
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart and
with all your soul and
with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV
…You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18b ESV
These two verses summarize the commandments as Jesus summarized them in the gospels. You shall love the Lord your GOD with all your heart…and your neighbor as yourself. It is the heart of who we are as Christians.
The Old Testamant called us to love GOD with every fiber of our being, and our neighbor…just like we love ourselves. We don’t do it, we can’t. We can’t keep the 10 Commandments and that led to our coming to Christ in the first place. We realized we couldn’t do it. The standard was impossible!
As we live out the gospel, we realize that even with Christ, we still can’t keep that commandments and we need Christ more as we live out the gospel. Christ fulfilled the Law for us for the 33 years He was here on earth. On the cross, He paid the penalty for our sin and rose from the dead…proivng to all that he was truly dead and fully alive, thus vistorious over sin and death…after.
So what is new?
Boice suggests that the newness of this command to love involves 3 aspects.
- extent-the extent of the love shown now goes beyond our own family and our own people and race. It goes outside the Jewish nation to gentiles, to women, to sinners. It was for all the disenfranchised, the losers, the outcasts. Imagine how good this good news was!
- length-the length we go is the same length Christ went when He was on earth…the cross if needed. Being alienated from the Father for a time was no small thing. It was the length He had to go to pay for our sin. We don’t know the lengths we will have to go for love.
- degree-the life of Jesus is in His people. The degree of true love showing forth in us is the degree of light that is true (genuine).
Life of Love-vss. 9-11
The darkness is passing away and the true Light is shining. This is true according to John, but it is also true that the darkness is not completely gone nor is the Light fully seen in anyone either. He included 3 examples, 2 negative, 1 positive, where the test of love can be done.
Profession without love
This person is the one who claims to believe but hates his brother! It states the problem more starkly than other “if we claim” passages that end with “he is a liar.” It ends with “he is in the darkness.” That is very clear.
For those who say, “I love non-Christians, it’s the Christians I can’t stand.” Be careful. Be very careful. This passage gives you little encouragement. cf. I Corinthians 13:2
Love arising out of Light
This is the positive example of the person who lives in the Light and loves his brother/sister. This lifestyle leaves not cause for stumbling. The idea of stumbling can be taken 2 ways. It can be in the sense that others won’t stumble (as it is used in other places in the New Testament) or that he won’t stumble.
Boice feels the second is the more likely sense because of the context because of the effect my own love and hate have on me! It is followed by showing the negative side of this truth. If I continue in the darkness, blinded by my own hate, I won’t know where I’m going because the darkness has blinded me!
How often have you been blinded by the darkness of hate?
John is pointing out that the opposite can also be true! If you choose to walk in the Light of Christ and move in the direction of Light, your eyes will be opened to truth as you love.
Learning to love someone is only for those you find difficult to love! Those who are easy to love…it’s a piece of cake. It’s those who are a challenge that cause us to grab onto Christ as we realize we need to learn to love them. But how? How will we love them in a genuine way? They are so difficult to love, to even be around!
That is when He begins to work a miracle in our hearts. It is rarely instant. But slowly we begin to see the world from their perspective. Slowly, the logs in our eyes are removed by the grace of GOD and He shows us that those things in the other person are truly splinters. We had no idea.
That’s what living in the Light is all about!
Hate leading to greater darkness
If the person in the first example continues on the path he is going, this is what happens. He does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
What a sad commentary on this person who once seemed to be part of the family of GOD. What tripped her up? Her inability to love another Christian!
It wasn’t doctrine or an issue of truth per se, it was the fact that she couldn’t love another believer that showed up the truth that she never knew Jesus in the first place!
What fearful words to hear! When we see such a lack of love within the Church of Jesus today? Is that simply symptomatic of the many in the local church who are not true Believers? I wonder. Only GOD knows.
All I know is what it says here. If we continue to walk in darkness and hate our brother/sister, we will find ourselves not knowing where we are going because our eyes will be blinded by the darkness.
The fact that this talks about our walk and our way of life, indicates that we will fail at times. But what is our normal “walk?”
Is our normal walk in the Light or in the dark?
And what is love? Is it an emotion? There are people I wil never have that feeling for! No, it isn’t an emotion. It is a lifestyle. It is a way of treating another person with respect, honor, of showing them I am willing to do something that costs me if needed, for their benefit.
Most of all, if I have wronged them, I will apologize. I will go out of my way to bring about reconciliation with them while understanding that all I can do is repair my side of the brokenness. I can’t make them accept my apology. I can’t make them reconcile. But I need to forgive/ask for forgiveness even if they don’t want to!
For more helpful and practical information, go to Peacemaker Ministries website including how to apologize. So few people really know how to do it! They have many, many practical, Biblically based resources to help you learn in this area of forgiveness, reconciliation, and learning to apologize…to name a few.
They also have comic book versions of the info in multi cultural format that are great, not only for teens, but also for those who won’t read books or are functionally illiterate or nearly so. The information is also available for children as well. How neat is it to be able to teach this to your children and have them call you on it when you are failing? I didn’t say it was fun, but it is good!
Their website is a resource with much practical information for you incuding a blog and book resources.
I also want to mention James Montgomery Boice’s book that is a huge resource for the blog and is available on Amazon as well as other places I’m sure.