Summary: Loving others well is the chief evidence that one is a Christ follower.
An Incarnational, Missional People
Becoming Loving & Sacrificial
Is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christ-follower?
Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge John Burlew was on the bench in April when Eric Hine, 43, of Cincinnati, came before him on a charge of receiving stolen property. Hine’s attorney asked for a low bond, saying Hine had a full time job and was a regular churchgoer. Burlew told Hine that if he could recite the entire 23rd Psalm, he’d let him out of jail with just his signature. Hine recited all six verses. Hine didn’t receive preferential treatment because he was a Christian but rather his quoting of Scripture validated his attorney’s claim. (This story is found at http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/04/25/national/a135852D63.DTL&type=bondage)
I was impressed that Hine could recite the entire Psalm. I can paraphrase the entire Psalm but I’m not sure that I would be able to give it verbatim.
I once attended a church that had a large sign up in their activity room that read, “If You Were Arrested For Being A Christian, Would There Be Enough Evidence To Convict You?” That question has stayed with me through the years. Am I so loving, giving, and forgiving that people would conclude, “Oh, he must be a follower of Christ”?
How do people experience and know you? What does the evidence say about your life?
In our study through 1 John we closed last week with 3:10 that declared “It is obvious who is a child of God and who is a child of the devil.” It is obvious. John said that the child of God was a man or woman who practiced righteousness (right living) and practiced love.
We’re continuing today to examine what John meant by practicing love.
[read 1 John 3:11-24]
“This is the message you heard from the beginning.” Certainly from the beginning of the ministry of Christ people were hearing about the importance of love. Jesus would declare that it is by loving others well that people would know if you are His follower. But John takes the “beginning” back even further. He brings up the relationship of Cain and Abel.
“Do not be like Cain” was a common Jewish refrain. In Jewish literature and the New Testament, Cain represents those who rebel against God (IVP New Testament Commentary). He became a stereotypical prototype for wickedness (e.g., Jubilees and 1 Enoch; Pharisees sometimes associated Cain with the Sadducees and their denial of the life to come); one pre-Christian Jewish text calls him “the unrighteous one” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:3).
Cain is the embodiment of someone that is in proximity to God but doesn’t love God and doesn’t love others. I believe that John still has in mind the former members of the church who got caught up in heresy and left the church. The current believers are trying to figure out what happened that these former friends and members of their community would leave their fellowship. John is saying that they left because they were like Cain, a child of the devil.
It sounds harsh to my 21st century context but John is responsible for shepherding this 1st century church and guiding them in the ways of God and being a deterrent to their going the way of the world. That’s a huge, eternal responsibility for which I feel a kinship with John.