1 John 3:11-18
Loving Our Brothers
If John is a book about anything, it is about love. We are told what to love, and what not to love. We are not to love the world. We are to love God and one another. In this passage, John talks about loving one another. But it is not some sweet, sentimental, syrupy kind of love that often passes for Christian love today. It is real. It is accompanied by deeds. And the warning for not loving our brothers and sisters in this very real way is that it indicates a life that is unregenerate.
John begins by telling us that loving one another is the message we have heard from the beginning. We are taken back to 2:7-11. There, we learned that the old commandment that we should love one another is now the new commandment in Christ Jesus. In Christ, the old commandment is now new and fresh. And he gave us the perfect example to follow. John refers to this when he says, “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Perhaps we might be called to do this literally one day. But even if we are never called upon to die for one another, we may still lay down our lives for one another in the way of service and sacrifice. Of course, John is not without bad examples either. He offers Cain who slew his brother “because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” That is, he slew his brother out of envy.
We love to read, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.” But then we read, “Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Jesus’ words come back to us, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment … and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:22). But we are so easy on ourselves. “You don’t know what he did to me!” “You don’t have to love those who hate you!” And then there is the ever sinister, “Oh, I don’t hate anyone. I may strongly dislike them, but not hate.” Really? Come now. Those hateful thoughts that run through your mind, those fantasized confrontations in which you tear them apart, those mean episodes you dream up that would make a writer for a soap opera blush – do you really think that your hundred or so petty justifications will excuse yourself on Judgment Day? We know that we have passed from death to life when we love those who mistreat us, both in our actions and in our hearts. For it is from the heart that one’s words and actions come (Matthew 12:33-37). Let loving deeds manifest pure hearts.