“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” (1 John 3:11-15 NIV)
I think most Christians realise that love is to characterise our lives as followers of Jesus. Because we don’t often see love exhibited around us, we sometimes forget what love really is. How many times have you had someone say that they loved you and yet did all sorts of bad things to you?
Cain, eldest son of Adam and Eve, is an example of this type of person. He was Abel’s brother yet he killed him (you can read about this in Genesis 4). What did Abel do that caused him to react in this way? Abel did nothing to Cain. It was just that Abel was doing what was right and Cain was doing what was wrong.
For the same reason we shouldn’t be surprised when we experience hatred from others. If we do what is right it exposes the wrong that others are doing. If we don’t retaliate as people around us do this can anger people even further and we end up being hated – not for doing something to them but because we act differently.
It is when we truly love each other, when we are truly doing the best we can for each other, that we are seen to be like our Teacher. This is when we know we are living a changed life and “have passed from death to life”. If we hate someone we are the same as a murderer – and no murder has eternal life. But how do we know what love is? The short answer is: look at Jesus.
“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 and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)
We see the ultimate love when someone gives their life in place of someone else. Jesus died for us. If we love each other we ought to be willing to die for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Although most of us will never face that scenario, there are everyday circumstances where we can show our love.
Where we are called to live is when we someone in need: are we willing to give the needed help? If we have what the person is needing then we need to be willing to help. After all, if we say we are willing to die for them surely we would be willing to give them what they are lacking. If we aren’t willing to do this small thing, then “how can the love of God” be in us?
Love is more than just telling someone we love them. Words can be cheap and so often people will say anything to appease someone else. Love is seen in what we do for each other. The Greek word for love here is, of course, agape. This is not a feeling but an action.
Do our actions towards each other show our love for them or that we really hate them?
Image by 999theone from pixabay.com. Free for use.
Readings for next week: 1 Peter 4-5; 2 Peter 1-3; 1 John 1-3