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Reading: 1 John 3:11-18
“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (verse 11)
what love isn’t
As a child, my mom engrained into our hearts that hate is a strong word. We were never allowed to use the word hate in our household, especially in arguments between my siblings. My mom understood the root of hate more than we did as a child. Our mouths would be quick to find the strongest word possible to imply our feelings without truly grasping the implications. I now am grateful that hate was never allowed to be a part of my vocabulary. Hate is not from the LORD.
In the beginning, God created everything. And everything He created was perfect and good in His sight. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, walked with God and enjoyed His presence. All until that fateful day in chapter three when the serpent deceived them into eating the forbidden fruit. Until this point, they were sinless. Love reigned in all the earth because there was no sin staining it…yet. The moment Adam and Eve bit into the fruit, sin entered the world and so did hate. Hate is not of God, it is a byproduct of sin. After Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23-24), they had two children, Cain and Abel.
In Genesis 4:1-7, we read the story of the two brothers. Abel was a keeper of sheep and cain was a worker of the ground. They both brought offerings to the LORD, but only Abel’s was acceptable in God’s sight. Why? Because he gave his first and his best. And this drove Cain made with anger. Jealousy stirred up hate in Cain’s heart towards his brother. So much so that it compelled him to kill him. Before you write off this story as a feud between two brothers, turn with me to Matthew 5:21-26.
Jesus is talking to his disciples and teaching them the ways of the Kingdom of God. In verse 21 he says:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Those are strong words straight from the mouth of Jesus. He brings the sixth commandment straight to home to our hearts. Most of us would ignore Jesus when he said not to murder because we haven’t murdered. But when Jesus explains even further that if the intentions of our hearts are anger, hate and insulting, we have murdered our brother. Ouch! The root of murder is a matter of the heart that we often cover up. Cain killed his brother Abel because he hated that Abel’s gift was acceptable in the sight of God. Jealousy in Cain’s heart set ablaze a fire of destruction that not only caused him to kill his brother and leave his parents, but also to have to leave the presence of the LORD. Hate cannot be in God’s presence because hate is not of God.
1 John 3:15 tells us “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Hate, in the eyes of God, is murder. We have all been guilty. There is not one on earth who is stands before God blameless. That is the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus sacrificed his body and endured shame for our sins, so that we might be cleansed from our sin and have eternal life in Him. Jesus set us free from the bondage of hate. And he is setting us free each day. As a believer, if you have felt hate and jealously begin to take root in your heart, you also know the conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit. He teaches us in the way that we should go, and as followers of Christ that means laying down our life for others rather than murdering them. Quite the opposite of human nature, huh?
We cannot live a life like Christ apart from Christ. That is why John reminds us to abide in Jesus.
what love is
In the book of 1 John, we have been reminded to abide over and over again. Abide in truth. Abide in grace. Abide in Christ. Abide in light. Abide in love. Clearly John was trying to get a point across to the believers – we are to abide (make our dwelling place) in the God of all grace. Why was he emphasizing the truth of abiding? Because we are prone to make our home in the world that is passing away. We are quick to follow our hearts and not the truth of Scripture. Love is from God and we must be in God in order to love.
What is love? 1 John 3:16-18 tells us three things love is: sacrifice in deed and truth.
True love is sacrifice. Cain killed Abel because Abel’s offering to God was pure and pleasing. He chose death over life. From the life of Christ we learn that through death we have life. Through dying to ourselves with the Christ, we have true life in Him and the hope of salvation. Death precedes life. Jesus laid down his life for us and we are to lay down our lives for others. Instead of murdering with hate and envy, we are to love in deed and truth in Christ Jesus.
John knew all too well that as believers we can be full of talk with little action. We can say that we love like Christ, but until our actions mirror our words they are meaningless. He gave the example of seeing another in need and not giving to him. Sacrifice is a deed. It is giving of yourself, your time, your money and possessions to others in the name of Jesus. Sacrifice is love and love is Christ. How are we giving of ourselves each day to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are our actions lining up with our words? I know all too well from growing up in the church that it is easy to have a lot of head knowledge without actually putting it into action.
The word for deed is “ergon” and it means our business, employment and that which occupies our time. How are you loving others through your work? Through being a stay at home mom? Through going to the gym or going grocery shopping? May our time be occupied with love, no matter what we are doing.
Lastly, we are to love in truth. Ephesians 4:15 reminds us to speak the truth in love to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ. What comes out of our mouths is from our hearts. If truth is in you heart, truth will come out of your mouth. We are to love in the truth of Scripture for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Sisters, let us love not like Cain, but like Christ who laid down his life for others. He set the example for perfect love and we are to follow in His grace and in His power. Rest in Him. Hide in His Word and ask Him to love others through you for the glory of His name.