loving one another as we walk with god
1 John 3:11-18
News about the economy continues to make headlines. This week we were told by the Governor of the Bank of England that the recession will last until at least the end of the year, and all will be affected. Some have already lost their jobs and others are suffering the consequences. Many are struggling to make ends meet. How should the church respond to this? Jesus and his followers were clear. They said: Love one another as we have been loved. When we do this, we will know God and walk with God. This is our theme today from 1 John 3:11-18: Loving one another as we walk with God. Let us look first at what this means under the heading…
1 LOVING ONE ANOTHER — THE MESSAGE (vs.11-15)
1.1 Love one another
Having said in v10 that those who do not do what is right are not of God, nor are those who do not love others, he then says in v11: “This is the message we have heard from the beginning: we should love one another.” The CEV is more direct when it says, “From the beginning you were told to love each other.”
1.2 Conflict between love and hate
The word message in v11 is angelia from which we have the word angel. This therefore is a heavenly message. It is a message from God. It is a message we should know well. This is the message we have heard from the beginning: love one another.
Verse 12 says, “Do not be like Cain, who was from the evil one and murdered his brother.” The reason for Cain’s behaviour is given in the second part of v12. It was because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Resentment and animosity set in and led to hatred and murder. Verse 13 says if we know God and walk with God, we should not be surprised that the world hates us like Cain hated his brother. Jesus said in John 15:19 that if we were of the world, it would love us as its own… but we were chosen out of the world, and this is why the world hates us.
1.3 Out of death into life
Verse 14 applies the message so far by saying that we know we have passed out of death into life because we love one another. Anyone who does not love remains in death. In other words, love is a sign of life from God. It shows that we know God and walk with God. Verse 15 reflects again on the behaviour of Cain when it says, “Anyone who hates a fellow believer is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in them.” John does not say those who hate their fellow believer are not Christians. He says at this point, we do not have eternal life abiding in us—we do not walk with God. Instead, we abide in death. Speaking as a Christian, Paul said in Romans 8:13 that if we live according to the flesh, we will die; but if by the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the body, we will live. This leads from the message of loving one another to…
2 LOVING ONE ANOTHER — THE MOTIVE (vs.16-17)
2.1 The supreme example of love
In contrast to the hatred and murder seen in the life of Cain, we now turn to the true character of love seen in the life of Jesus. Hatred (which leads to murder) takes away life whereas love gives life. Verse 16 says 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 others.
2.2 A love to be admired and copied
As one who stood at the foot of the cross, John was able to say greater love had no one than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. For John, this love is not just to be admired; it is to be followed. Verse 16 says Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. This may not lead to the ultimate sacrifice as it did with Jesus, but v17 points to other expressions of love that may be more helpful. He says, “If we have material goods and see a fellow believer in need but have no pity on them, how can the love of God be in us?”
The word pity in v17 is a deep-seated emotion (σπλαγχνίζομαι). Philippians 1:7-8 says, “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ.” He then says in vs.9-11 that our love ought to abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness.” This is the motive for love.
2.3 Loving the unlovely
Loving those in need is not just loving those we are drawn to naturally—everyone does that. We are to love those who are unattractive, uninteresting, difficult, and exasperating. Most of us agree that we should not show favouritism when loving our family. It should be the same in God’s family. Like God, we should take care of our family. Like God, we should look for the good in people and build them up. Like God, we should love others no matter what they do. James 2:15-16 says, “If a fellow believer is without clothes and daily food, and you say: “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but do nothing about their needs, what good is it? This leads to the most difficult part of the message. Having heard the message of loving one another, and the motive for loving one another, how do we put this into practice?
3 LOVING ONE ANOTHER — THE METHOD (v18)
3.1 Love in action
1 John 3:18 says, “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” The true test of love is not a verbal profession of love (with words or tongue); it is love with actions and in truth. The CEV says we show love for others by helping them—not by talking about it. The Message says, “Let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice it!” The Nike Version says, “Just do it!
3.2 Meeting needs
The problem in Harrogate is that most people are well off, and we tend to think this is true of everyone. There are, however, some needy people in this town, and some are in this church. A further problem is that many needs today are met by the state. It is sometimes argued, for example, that if we pay our taxes, we already provide for the needy. Does this mean that loving one another in the way suggested in 1 John 3:17 is no longer applicable? Let us see what the verse says…
Verse 17 says, “If we have material goods and see a fellow believer in need but have no pity on them, how can the love of God be in us? The first thing to notice is that we are concerned about fellow believers here. The second thing to notice is that it refers to those who have material goods who see that others don’t have. In other words, we see the need—not them. We then have pity on them, take the initiative, and make sure their needs are being met. We need to ensure that needs are being met either by the state, by us individually, or by the church. The HFG could help (especially Q9).
3.3 We need to love
Verse 18 says we should not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. We talk about love, we sing about love, and we theologise about love, but we need to love! We need to love with actions because actions work. We need to love in truth because the truth will set us free.
We can respond to this message in a number of ways. We can ignore it; we can leave it to others; we can hope it doesn’t come up again too soon. If we ignore this message, however, we will not know God or walk with God. 1 John 3:17 says, “If we have material goods and see a fellow believer in need but have no pity on them, how can the love of God remain in us?” How can we say that we know God and walk with God? Happiness is a choice so let us sing as a closing prayer and commitment…
Bind us together