1 John 3:16-18 - By this we know love
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By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16.
Two years ago, we met a former student at a conference. After nearly 18 years, we did not recognise him. He introduced himself as the father whose daughter we had saved and showed us a photo of a beautiful young lady. We looked at him questioningly. He reminded us of the measles epidemic in northern Nigeria and how his sick baby had been given an overdose of medication at the government hospital and had gone into a coma. Without money and desperate, he had come to us for help. There was a private mission hospital down the road. We would not normally have had enough money to hand, but a few months earlier, when home in the UK, a supporter had pressed an envelope of money into our hand and whispered, “It’s for student medical expenses”. We immediately took the baby and the money to the hospital and her life was saved.
Our friend had expressed love for students in need, although she had never met them. Her sacrificial giving set up a medical fund for the college that saved the life of the student’s baby.
In this section, John illustrates what love looks like in practice. In the previous verses, the example of Cain showed that hate leads to murder. In v.16, it is the example of Jesus Christ that shows what love is because he “laid down his life for us.” In John 15:13 Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, than someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus has called us his friends and has given up his life for us. If love is expressed by providing for the life-sustaining needs of others, then Jesus has given his own life in our place that we might “pass out of death into life” (1 John 3:14). This is the supreme act of love providing for our deepest need.
Given what Jesus has done for us, our lives ought to display the same sacrificial love for others. Calvin explains, “[John] means that our feelings should be so formed and regulated that we may desire to devote our life and also our death first to God and then to our neighbours” (p. 219). The essence of love is self-sacrifice for others. It contrasts starkly with Cain’s hate that sacrificed his brother’s life.
In v.17 John gives a practical example of what it means to love sacrificially in the local church context. Those who have been blessed with the material goods of the world have all that they need to sustain life and more. On the other hand, those in the congregation who lack the material goods necessary for sustaining life, are in need. God’s way of providing for them is through the generosity of those who have surplus. It is the love of God that propels them to give. If they close their hearts against the needy, they show that the love of God does not “abide in them.” They are the same as the evil Cain.
The sum of the matter is that Christians are called to demonstrate the love of God in practical ways. John the preacher appeals to his hearers, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth” (v.18). Love is demonstrated both by acts of generosity and by holding onto the truth about the person and work of Jesus (1 John 2:22-23). Truth and practical expressions of love go hand-in-hand.
Let us examine our own hearts today. Are we walking in the truth? Do we demonstrate the love of God by generous and self-sacrificial giving?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us. Help us so to love others, that we are willing and ready to give to those in need whenever you call us to do this. Help us to demonstrate your love in real and practical ways today and throughout our lives.
In the name of Jesus,
Pray with us today's prayer request:
Archbishop Ben Kwashi and Mama Gloria are back home in Jos, Nigeria. Thank God for the medical treatment Archbishop Ben received, for the hospitality of their hosts, for the Lord sustaining them, and for healing. Pray for the Lord's continued help as they minister in an environment where there is danger all around.
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