Jesus came to give us life. The apostle John records this promise of Jesus; The thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10; ISV). The promise of Jesus is that we find life, true life, in Him. This life is made real in our lives when we love. We live the life God created us to life when we follow the example of Jesus rather than the example of Cain. The example of Cain, imitating his hatred for his brother, leads to death. The example of Jesus, imitating His sacrificial love for the least important, leads to life. When we love God, by loving our neighbors, true life becomes a part of our lives.
2. The second element of love we have to understand is the action of love:
16 This is how we have come to know love: Christ gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our lives for our brothers. 17 Whoever has earthly possessions and notices a brother in need and yet withholds his compassion from him, how can the love of God remain in him? 18 Little children, we must stop loving in word and in tongue, but instead love in action and in truth. 19 And this is how we will know that we belong to the truth and how we will be able to establish our hearts in his presence. 20 If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. (1 John 3:16-20; ISV)
John began this section by giving us a negative example of what love is. We are not to follow the example Cain, instead we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ.
What is the example of Jesus when it comes to love? It is the fact that He laid down His life for us. This is the greatest example of love: the laying down of life so others can live. That is what Jesus did.
It seems that John understands that not all of us will be asked to do the supreme action of love (the giving of our physical lives). So John provides us with an example to help us understand how self-sacrifice can be real in our every day lives: we give what we have to help those in need. It is giving to help provide life for others. Jesus certainly did this. There were times when He was tired but when the crowds sought Him out He stayed and taught and healed the sick. The early Christians did this by continuing to preach the Good News of God’s Love and Jesus’ death and resurrection in the face of persecution.
We do this when we give money above and beyond our tithe to help a person with expenses. We do this when we miss a business appointment to spend a few hours with a friend who needs to talk. We do this when we stop and pick up an acquaintance and bring them to worship on Sunday morning.
Love, according to John, is not just about what we say, but it is about what we do. We can say we love people, but if we don’t show love to people, then that shows the world that God’s truth is not part of our lives. There are a lot of people who say they love people, who give to humanitarian causes, but are terrible and hateful to their family. Love isn’t about giving money, but how we treat individuals.
This brings us to a difficult part of the text. What does it mean that our hearts condemn us? Sometimes Satan, trying to disguise himself as the Holy Spirit, will attempt to deceive us with our conscious. He will remind us of the times we were not loving to people or how we might have missed an opportunity to love someone. One of the truths John wants us to know is that our hearts, our conscious, isn’t always right. We need to remember God’s promise to forgive our past sins and our current commitment to love people. Those two things will show us that God accepts us, and He is the ultimate judge of our lives.
What is the action of love? The action of love is self-sacrifice, giving away things that are important to us so that we can improve the quality of life for someone else.
- Point to Ponder: Love is not just about what we say, but it is about what we do.
- Passage to Remember: 1 John 3:16-20
- Question to Consider: How is the love you feel in your heart made real in your life?