There are a few things that we as humans can’t live without. You might be thinking about chocolate or your morning coffee/tea or some other creature comfort. But what I’m talking about are critical needs, things we must have, or else our entire being ceases to exist.
For example, you can only go 40 days without food, 3 days without water, and after 72 straight hours of not sleeping, before you begin hallucinating and your cognitive ability diminishes rapidly.
More critical than food, water, or sleep, is love.
Studies have shown when people are deprived of loving affection experience elevated stress and depression levels than those who receive it.
Love is such a critical human need, and maybe that is why God has described Himself as love, 1 John 4:8.
In 1 John 3, John writes to the church in Ephesus (modern-day Turkey) about love’s significance. Having been one of Jesus’ original disciples, John was significantly impacted by Jesus’ love.
During His time on earth, Jesus taught about God’s love for His creation. He also said how the disciple’s love for one another would identify them as His followers.
Let’s pause and think about that for a minute. Jesus performed incredible miracles while on earth.
- He turned water to wine.
- He fed 5,000 people with a couple of loaves of bread and a few sardines.
- He restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and the crippled walked again.
- Even more impressive, He raised three people from the dead.
Yet, his followers’ primary identifying characteristic would not be the working of miracles or speaking to large audiences but love!
This truth should reprioritize what we have identified as the essential characteristic of a follower of Jesus.
John confesses that this isn’t a new message but one they have heard before. He is repeating this lesson because they have not learned it yet.
How do you know when you have learned a lesson? When it becomes a part of your life.
We are instructed to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only,” James 1:22.
John recalls the story of Cain and Abel, who are brothers. In a fit of jealousy, Cain killed Abel and 1 John 3:12 reveals the source of Cain’s action; as of/from the evil one.
In scripture, this phrase is a reference to Satan, the devil. From the beginning of time, he has attempted to destroy everything God has created.
Hatred, murder, and strife are characteristics of his Kingdom, and whenever you see those qualities at work, they are inspired by the evil one.
The story of Cain and Abel parallels the relationship between the world and followers of Jesus. He explains how there is a system at work in opposition to faith-living.
Through faith in Jesus, we become a part of God’s family and are given a new nature. This nature is saturated with love.
The word “love” in 1 John is the Greek word agape. Agape is an unconditional love. Agape loves not because the recipient deserves it but needs it.
If you feel unloved or unlovable, that is the system of this world determining your value, but God says you are priceless, and He loves you endlessly.
As Christians, we can love all people because we have received the love of God. John wants us to cultivate love in a world that is hostile to the life of faith.
In verse 16, John says, “we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Laying down our life is an illustration of sacrifice.
Authentic love requires sacrifice.
We must sacrifice our impulses and human instincts and respond with unconditional love. The sacrifice motif also refers to helping those in need. Here John is explicitly referring to those in the family of God.
The phrase “closes his heart,” in verse 17, literally means “to close and lock the door.” God forbid us as Christians that we close our hearts to those in need when it’s in our ability to help.
- How does your love measure up?
- Are your interactions with others drenched with love?
Let’s change the temperature in our world, not by debating or arguing but by loving those who need God’s unconditional love. Let’s be known as people belonging to God by always loving!