TEXT: 1 John 3:13-18
Last week, we began talking about the importance of being a part of a community of other believers in your Christian walk. Using the example of how, in Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian found Faithful and they continued their journey to the Celestial City together, we focused on the fact that the world is not friendly to those who are followers of Christ. If you don’t have other believers around you to support you, encourage you, and hold you up, you can easily become discouraged in your Christian walk.
Today, we want to take a closer look at the second mark of true Christians: not only are they hated by the world, but they love each other. Our passage states, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
One of the first marks of a follower of Jesus Christ is that he or she loves other believers and the church as a whole. In his fine work on The Letters of John, Colin Kruse states that John points out that mutual love is the mark of true children of God. Those who love are those who have passed from death to life. ‘The expression ‘we have passed from death to life’ has a close parallel to the same phrase found in the Gospel of John where the idea of passing from death to life is synonymous with escaping condemnation and obtaining eternal life. The closeness of the expressions and the relationship between First John and the Gospel of John justify interpreting this statement to show that love for fellow believers is the mark of those who have escaped condemnation because they have come to know God through Jesus Christ.’ Basically, what John is clearly showing here is that if you are truly born again, you will love others who are also born again.
The word used here for love is agape. This indicates that the love we have for others in the body of Christ is not based on feelings or based on what they have done for us or how they have treated us. We simply choose to love them just as God chose to love us despite our faults, sins, and failures. Just as in any family, because we are all human, people in the body of Christ will offend you, betray you, and do things that you do not agree with. What do you do? You love them anyway. Love is the mark of the body of believers.
John calls those who do not love other Christians “murderers.” Is there somebody in your church whom you hate or despise — somebody whom you avoid at all costs, somebody whom you wish you didn’t have to see every time you went to church? The Bible classifies your attitude toward that person as murderous. Remember, God looks on your heart. Just because you have never said or done anything negative to that person, that does not negate your attitude. Kenneth L. Barker states, “In the heart there is no difference; to hate is to despise, to cut off from relationship, and murder is simply the fulfillment of that attitude.” Charles Spurgeon also stated, “Every man who hates another has the venom of murder in his veins. He may never actually take the deadly weapons into his hand and destroy life; but if he wishes that his brother were out of the way, if he would be glad if no such person existed, that feeling amounts to murder in the judgment of God.”
Dear friend, you need other believers, and other believers need you. Together, we grow stronger in our faith, encourage each other, and “provoke” each other to do what is right. Don’t ruin the fellowship that you could have by holding a grudge or becoming bitter toward another brother or sister. The Bible says, “How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity.”
Charles Wesley wrote this song which is applicable to our relationship with others in the body of Christ.
All praise to our redeeming Lord,
Who joins us by His grace,
And bids us, each to each restored,
Together seek His face.
He bids us build each other up;
And, gathered into one,
To our high calling’s glorious hope
We hand in hand go on.
Now, in the body of Christ, you ought not to always be a receiver. No matter how much the preaching, the singing, or the service of others is a blessing to you, you ought to be on the giving end some time. In fact, most of the time, you ought to be seeking to serve others — and not just to be served. Listen to these words again: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
Jesus Christ came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. He could have easily demanded that everyone bow down and acknowledge Him as God before He died on the cross for them. But, He didn’t do that. He came and humbly served as the sacrifice for sin even though we didn’t deserve it. Are you willing to do the same? Are you willing to lay aside the trappings of whatever status or position you hold in the church or in the world and humbly give of your time, abilities, money, and provisions, in order to serve others?
In this passage, the word “perceive” tells us that we know that God loves us not just because He says so, but because He demonstrated that love by sacrificing His Son on the cross. We don’t have to guess and wonder about how God feels about us. We know because of what He has said and done. We ought to make it our business to make it plain that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ by acting in a manner that demonstrates that love to them — ‘not just in word and tongue; but in deed and in truth.’
If we commit to showing love to other believers and fellowshipping with other believers, we will have a much more effective, encouraging, and empowered walk with Christ.