Today’s Reading 1 John 3:11-24
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love” (1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David and music by Burt Bacharach). How true! Hal David didn’t need to tell the Lord, though – the Lord had already told us! I wonder whether the love of the lyrics (and in society around us) is the love described in today’s reading. I suspect Hal and Burt saw love as “warm affection, attachment, liking or fondness, paternal benevolence, affectionate devotion” (COD 5th ed. 1964). Those who trust in Jesus “know what love is” (v. 16). What’s more, we have “heard from the beginning: we should love one another” (v.11). There is no need to check a dictionary – here it is in plain view. Yes, it includes those dictionary aspects … but it goes a lot further. Christians have love perfectly modelled in Jesus and his sacrifice as he “laid down his life for us” (v 16). Jesus was “leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). That example showed us how to “not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (v. 18). There’s the possibility that when our society sees this love in action it will hate us (v. 13), perhaps even to the extreme of slaughter as seen in the Cain / Abel history and in parts of our world today. In our culture it’s more likely that we will be ignored or scoffed at. We will certainly be sidelined, maybe even have discrimination against Christians enshrined in law if the current trends continue.
For the follower of Jesus, when we put love into action we “know that we have passed from death to life” (v. 14). We “practise” love firstly with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we can’t show love here, how will we show it to the persons we rub shoulders with day by day? How many times in childhood have our parents told us, “What you do speaks louder than what you say!” It turns out they were echoing the Scriptures. John goes further, saying that a person who “has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help” (v. 17, NLT) is demonstrating he is not of God. Ouch!
Have I loved enough in actions and truth? In answering this question some of us have a sensitive conscience that would lead us to doubt our acceptance by Christ. These doubts cause us to condemn ourselves. The good news is that God knows our intentions, however poorly we apply them. Our love might be deeply flawed and seem inadequate, but God’s forgiveness is bottomless and He discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4: 12). So He assures us and gives us confidence. The outcome of this confidence is to “receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him” (v. 22). But note that this is a conditional clause: we receive because we “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and (to) love one another as he commanded us” (v. 23). So we come full circle; we keep God’s commands by believing in the name and loving in deed, and God confirms that He lives in us by the internal witness of His Spirit.
May these verses encourage us to put love into action every day. Be assured, God our Father will give ample opportunities for us to practise.