It is hardly foreign to believers that we are to love God and love our neighbour. God is love, but how do we know we are abiding in that love and therefore following Him?
1 John 3:11-24 urges us to examine ourselves deep down to find the answer. Cain murdered Abel because his heart was not interested in Abel’s best interests. That was not love. Similarly, we are told not to be surprised if the world does not love us despite our love for our brothers.
But is that what we really experience in downtown Figtree in 2014? I suspect not, at least overtly. In a world of political correctness and ‘equality’, I do not come across people overtly hating me for being a Christian. The worst we can generally expect is that people will think less or us and/or that we’re ‘weird’ or even ‘crazy’. That is, we are ‘tolerated’. But that is not love.
How do we distinguish ourselves as loving people rather than tolerating people? Often the difference between abiding in life (ie love) or in death (ie not love) is hard to tell in a ‘tolerant’ society. Verse 18 tells us to love not just in word or talk but in deed and truth. However, once again if you read that in isolation there are plenty of people in our neighbourhood who do good things and seem to be honest people.
In my view, at least on this point the key is verses 16-17. We can only know love by looking to what Jesus did for us in laying down his life. That is true love. We must do likewise – putting others ahead of ourselves at all costs – ie not just when it will look good to others or when it is convenient. The most outwardly obvious example of not following this command is by turning a blind eye to a brother in need.
This requires internal reflection, to see if we really care about the interests of others – all the more reason for times alone with God. Cain obviously did not examine himself closely enough – can we buck this trend in our ‘busy’ world so that by careful reflection we can seek to be ‘crazy’ in our love to others?
There is so much ink capable of being spilt about this passage, however I hope this is of some help today. It sounds hard, but may those of us who need to learn (including me) accept that God will give us the grace to do it!