Friday in the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 John 3:16-18

What “Love” Means

There is probably no more misused word in the English language (or any other) than “love.”  In our day, it has been reduced to sex and sentiment.  And more recently, it necessitates an unconditional acceptance of the behavior of others regardless how sinful or self-destructive.  It is primarily a feeling.  In other words, people today have the most reductionistic and pathetic understanding of love imaginable.

If we want to know what love is, we have no further to look than John’s definition: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”  In other words, if we want to know what love looks like, we need only look to Christ.  And what did Christ do?  He lived for others and made a practice of serving and healing others.  Ultimately, he gave his life for others.  Paul defines a husband’s love for his wife in precisely the same way (Ephesians 5:25-33).  And I don’t think we should press the word, “brothers,” too hard.  Of course, this should be our attitude towards fellow-believers, but we should also not hesitate to give our lives for anyone else.  Jesus himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). 

“But,” you complain, “opportunities to die for others are so few and far between that we rarely get to prove such love.”  Never fear.  The Apostle continues: “But if anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  Howard Marshall writes: “The need of the world is not for heroic acts of martyrdom, but for heroic acts of material sacrifice” (NICNT, 195-6).  We are called to die daily to self so that others may live.  And that may very well mean financial sacrifice—and not just tithing or giving away our worn and outdated clothes to the local pantry but doing something truly sacrificial—something that may hurt but makes life for others, like Christ did for us on the cross.

Yep.  That’s how the Bible defines love, and not a word about romance, sentimental feelings, and certainly not the acceptance of sinful and destructive behaviors which lead to slavery and death.  John is certain that love is an action that meets needs with the good news of Jesus Christ.  It’s really not that complicated, and it is sin to deceive oneself and play dumb.  God wants us to lay down our lives for others—like He did.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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