Please begin with prayer for an open heart, before you read the passage below. 1 John 3:16-18 – 16 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. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
My wife and I are at the phase in life where there are many people around us having babies. Whenever one of our friends/relatives has a new baby, I frequently hear---which parent does the child look like? Then there is the conversation about the eyes resemble dad and the mouth resembles mom or however that goes. We experienced this with both of our kids and still do to this day---it’s humorous to hear how people say with such certainty, direct, contradictory remarks. The joys of parenting! There is almost always a resemblance of the parents passed down to the children---the same is true spiritually. We should look like our Father---if we don’t, maybe we should maybe get some type of spiritual DNA test to identify the father??? (Jerry Springer just came to mind)
I love the book of 1 John and the author continually uses a dichotomy throughout the letter. If we love God we do this, if we don’t have fellowship we do this, if we love the world we look like this, if we do the will of God we look like this, if we are a child of the devil we look like this, etc., etc. It’s the same dichotomy used repeatedly with varying semantic terms that basically point out if we are a believer or not. The point is that we should live a certain way if our belief is genuine---not in a legalistic way that attempts to earn God’s favor, but in a transformed life way in which we respond out of love.
In this text, John begins by defining love through Jesus’ example of giving His life for us and the length of love that He went to so that He could defeat the power of sin and death and restore our relationship with the Father. Romans 5:8 says, ‘But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Those are amazing words that will radically alter our identity and life if we take them to heart. He reached out to us, when we were running away from Him and chasing other gods. Now that’s someone I want to follow and be like!
At times, we confuse Christianity with a list of do’s and don’ts and loving others can fall into that category. He always goes a step further and desires the transformation of the heart, which then naturally manifests in action. We can attempt to live out this verse in 1 John through obligation and will, but the way John seems to word it is that it is a natural response for Christ followers to do these things, because of what He has done for us. The logical train of thinking is we love God, follow His example, and are constantly and consistently available with all we are (time, treasures, and talents) to meet a need, especially within the body of Christ (‘brothers’ in Scripture points to believers!). Notice how practical John gets---if you have material possessions and see someone in need, then act on it and help them!
He closes this thought in verse 18, by basically saying that talk is cheap. It’s easy to say we love people and are available and it’s much harder to act. When we know Who’s we are and who we are, we will naturally respond with a grateful heart and answer the call to love those around us. We can live freely in that identity we receive through Christ’s actions and know that we are taken care of as His beloved children.
Have you seen your heart towards people change as a result of your faith? Are there things God is calling you to act on right now? What prevents you? We pray for receptive and responsive hearts that the Spirit guides and directs! I would love to hear your journey and how this passage impacted you.