1 John 3:16-24
To Jesus’ contemporaries, he was a rabbi, and a teacher of the law. Such men were expected to spend their time interpreting the law. No wonder he frustrated the Pharisees so much. Instead of discussing ‘The Law,’ Jesus kept talking about Love.
One of the Rabbis asked if it was okay to pull an ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath or to pay taxes to Rome—and if a woman caught in the act of adultery could be stoned? Each time, Jesus challenged them to quit focusing their mental microscopes on the ‘letter of the law’ and see the ‘divine spirit of the law.’
Jesus wants us to understand that you can keep the Law in detail without Loving, but you cannot Love without being obedient to God’s Law.
Jesus was motivated by Love.
It was the Unifying principle of his earthly life. So the message of John’s letter is that Christ’s followers must also choose Love as a life principle—if we are to walk in his steps—if we are to share his life, we must share his Love.
What are the characteristics of such love?
• Love is of God. True live is not a human characteristic. Its source is God. John talks about God’s love: “God is Love.” God’s kind of love is the love that has a divine author. We use the word ‘love’ far too loosely in this culture. We love our wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, children. I love my cat, dog, new car or boat as well as my house, furniture, etc. What we refer to as love is often really infatuation, affection, lust, money, concern or a bad case of heartburn!
Love is not something you learn in a seminar or from a book. It must be experienced in our own lives, and in our families. For that reason John says: “We know Love.” We know love because we have experienced it in Christ. The cross of Christ is the supreme expression of Love. To know Christ’s sacrificial Love, and to accept that ‘cross’ as our own is to open our lives to truly experience love for the first time.
If our culture knows so little ‘real love,’ it is because we know so little about God. He is a God of Love. If we wish to know him, we must be willing to be loved and to love.
• Love is action.
Just as faith without works is dead, so is love without action.
Love goes beyond works, it is very practical. It must be applied in daily life, sometimes with people who are not very loving or lovable. Real love requires us to take our eyes off ourselves and see the needs of others.
We Christians can be guilty of talking about love, but showing very little. There was a man who recalled his first encounter with a Christian. He was walking down a high school corridor when a young woman stepped into his path, held up a Bible to his face and exclaimed: “You’d better get right with the Lord or he’ll condemn you to hell!” For years, his impression of Christians was wild-eyed fanatics carrying 30-pound Bibles in a wheelbarrow, screaming at people. His impression of Christ was not one of love, but of anger.
What impression of Christ do we give? Loving, caring, concern for people and their needs? Or is our Christ moody, distant, legalistic, disconnected from daily life? And is our love given freely or does it carry expectations that must be met before we show our love?
Just as the “Source of Love is God,” the reality of love is action. As we demonstrate love, God makes himself more and more real in our own life.
• Love is costly. Love is not cheap.
God’s love came at the expense of a ‘cross.’ We must also expect to pay a price, if we are to show authentic love. There is risk of vulnerability, of misunderstanding, or fear of rejection. We must take a chance in order to love others. Some will reject it, others will misuse it, but there will be those who respond to it, and who experience Christ’s presence in our love.
Psychiatrist Karl Menninger said: “Love cures. It cures those who give it, and it cures those who receive it.”
The life of love is not an easy or a common one, but it is the road that leads to Christ and the abundance of fellowship with him. Remember you can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving. “Faith, hop and love abide, these three and the greatest of these is love,” 1 Corinthians.