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.
Let me say it clearly one more time. Anyone who grew up in the church or has spent significant time around the church but eventually gives up on the church and walks away is a “Cain”. This is so important, not because we want to be condescending toward others but rather because we want to be concerned for their souls and that of our own. John considers those who walked away from his church to be lost and in need of a saving relationship with Christ.
Over and again today you hear this commentary about the church: “I don’t have a problem with Jesus. It’s the church I can’t stand.” Friend, if you tell me that you like me but you can’t stand my wife, you can forget having friendship with me. Part of liking and loving me is growing to love and accept my wife.
You can’t love Christ and not love His church. To love Christ is at the same time to love His bride, the church. That doesn’t mean that we pretend that the church doesn’t have problems or that there has been sin and corruption in the church. It does mean that we recognize that Jesus died for the church and that His strategy for “seeking and saving” this world is through His church.
This is where a great deal of our life transformation takes place. Because the church is filled with fallen, broken people who have various degrees of being dysfunctional of course it can be difficult to love one another. It takes the grace and power of God to love more than 50% of the people in most churches. Those who are like us and easier to love don’t help us to grow. Anybody outside of Christ can love the “easy to love” people.