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photo: weekly graphic: Martha G. Brady

photo: weekly snaps
graphic: Martha G. Brady

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.  

Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. 

And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.  

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.  

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other.

Anyone who does not love remains in death.  

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I John 3:11-18

The key way that we…and the world around us, can tell who the believers are is by how we Christians love each other! Frankly, it is rather scary to think that the truth/genuineness of the Gospel is resting on the way we Christians love each other. At least here in the U.S. we’re just not known for the love we have for each other…and maybe that has a lot to do with the anemic nature of our witness to the world and our culture!

Obviously, when the message that we don’t really love each other inside the family of GOD is the one that gets through to our culture…as we criticize each other, take joy in the downfall of pastors, and in general show a  lack of love and often competitive attitude toward different denominations? Is it any wonder that those outside the family aren’t rushing to join?

Is it because we are all non-believers who don’t “get” the truth of the gospel?

That could be part of it. But GOD is working out our salvation in us. He is orchestrating our sanctification and our growth in grace. If we are part of His family, He will be working out love in His children. This passage tells us that His children will love…not perfectly, but a characteristic of the children in His family is that they love! When they don’t, they should be feeling uncomfortable at least!

And those of us in the family certainly don’t want to make each other comfortable in our times of being unloving! We need to realize it is not the way we are naturally bent…for sure! But it is who we are as children of the King!

So learning to love in agape (self-sacrificial) ways is how we are to minister to each other and to those around us. Frankly, I haven’t done well on it lately at all!

It seems that the church has taken on too many characteristics of the culture we live in rather than taking on characteristics of the Father of our family!

Just another reason to go to Christ for renewal and repentance. It is a reminder that I don’t have it all together…never will on this planet! It’s a reminder that without Him, I won’t be able to love in the ways I need to. But I continue persevering anyway.

The contrast: those who hate are children of Satan

There is a contrast with those who belong to GOD and are His children and those who are children of the evil one. They have no desire to love or turn from their hateful ways. Like Cain, they are tied to their hatred, envy, jealousy, resentment and the many other evils that reside in the human heart!

Is there no evidence of love working out in your life? Then you need to ask yourself if you are truly a child of GOD. It makes no difference if you have gone forward 20 times. The key is if GOD is working this kind of love in your life…ever!

If not, you may need to question which family you are in. For those of you who tend toward seeing the more negative side of life, you may need to ask people you know better, but will give you a straight answer, how they would answer this question about you. But the great examiner of the heart is the Spirit of GOD.

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

Encouraging each other to get revenge, take out their anger on those around us, let people be exposed to how we really feel, etc. are not wise ways to advise those who are in the family of GOD.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have conversations with one another, discuss differences, apologize for ways we have wronged another person or held something against them…but share with them a piece of our minds that we can’t afford to give away? NO!

We know who we are in Christ

Learning to love in ways that may cause us to sacrifice taking revenge or having the luxury of telling someone off is not a luxury we have if we are going to follow in the path of Christ.

We are different. The world needs to see the difference. We are a forgiven people. We are not defined by false accusations, wrong judgements made by others, words spoken to us in anger. GOD’s judgement over us is “forgiven”, “beloved by GOD.”

I don’t say that in a self-righteous way, but as a matter of fact. That is who we are. That is why Jesus didn’t have to defend Himself before those people before He died. He knew who He was. They didn’t define Him with their false accusations.

Boice also made the point that throughout the New Testament, there are very few verses that speak of the  love of Christ without speaking of the cross. I didn’t realize it! It gives an amazing context for the love of Christ doesn’t it? That is love that is very costly!

The social test of faith: love for each other

So once again, John reminds us of the social test of our faith…love for each other. But here it is mentioned in the contrast with the world’s hatred.

First, vss. 14-15 indicates that we don’t start in a neutral state, but rather, we start being dead in sin. In order to change, we must move from death to life. Our natural condition is dead in sin, not neutral. (cf. Romans 3:10-12)

Second, there is an indication that this change is supernatural in some way. We don’t grow gradually from being dead to being alive. Something supernatural has to happen for the New Birth to happen and bring us to life into the family of GOD. GOD needs to make us alive!

Third,  the receiving of life from GOD brings characteristics of Him thereby showing me that if there is a complete absence of love in my life toward others, I cannot be assured that I am part of GOD’s family.

So if we love each other, we will find that we will not be criticizing one another both inside the local church and between churches as we look around and see what other Godly churches are doing for the kingdom. Neither do we take joy in seeing the failure of other pastors or Christian leaders because it affects the Church and how others view the Church the Bride of Christ.

Another way we show our love for each other is by getting together each Sunday to worship. Yes, we do it for the love of Christ, but we also do it for the community of believers we worship with that we have grown to love.  This love for each other protects us from doing the Christian life alone. It helps us do the Christian life in community with other believers as Scripture teaches so we don’t get off on tangents but stay together focused on Scripture as our guiding light for wisdom and growth.

In closing, let me underline the final words of this passage:

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I John 3:18 ESV

This is where the rubber meets the road. I can’t just talk about this in theory and never do anything. GOD wants me to do something. To prioritize my life in such a way that I have time for those people and places that it isn’t easy to make time for. To love in ways that cost me.

I can’t manufacture those situations for sure! But there are plenty of opportunities for them each day!

Do you see signs of life in you that indicate you are part of GOD’s family?

Are you learning to love people you wouldn’t have loved a year or 5 years ago? If you are a child of GOD, that is His work in you!

Are you more inclined to love with words and speech or with actions and in truth? Think of examples.