Summary: Loving with action and not just words can and will build fellowship with other people as well as with God.
All human beings like to feel as though they belong or fit in with others. Being different can be difficult and we may even find ourselves exiled or outcast from the group we thought we associated with so easily. The world around us today is all about going with the flow. Actually, it pushes more for everyone to go “against” the flow so that they can become “their own individual” self. The problem soon becomes obvious; now everyone is trying to become individualized. The flow has now begun to flow in that direction. Different can actually be difficult but it may be for the best. Look at the world’s state right now; murder, rape, random acts of violence are all at super high numbers right now. Problems abound all around us. Sex, drugs, and violence now sell movies instead of quality and values. Promiscuous sex is seen as a valid source of entertainment and pleasure. Cheating, lying, and drinking are ok as long as you don’t get busted. Sometimes different can be a good thing.
Sometimes we wish life was different. In the movie Secondhand Lions, two old men who had once led incredibly adventurous lives decide to plant a garden. One of the gentlemen buys some seeds from a traveling salesman. He buys corn, beets, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and the two men and the boy staying with them plant these in rows. Each row is labeled with the different type of plant. Soon they began to sprout and as they inspected the garden they noticed something; all the leaves look very similar. The salesman had ripped them off; all the plants were corn. They had like fifty stalks of corn and so they ate corn, corn, and more corn. They wished by then that they had something a little different.
We continue today through the book of First John by moving through verses thirteen through 24 of chapter three. The preceding verses in chapter three told us about living consistently as Christians. The verses we are focusing on today tell us what that consistency should look like; how we should live consistently. Look at verses 13 through 15. “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Why would the world hate you? If you truly go against the flow, then yes you will not be liked. If you have convictions about morality and the necessity of morals, I can guarantee that you will not be liked too well in the world we live in. We have moved from being spiritually dead to alive. We are in a whole new realm. We should be different than the world. The world may hate but we must not hate in the church. We are called to be consistently different. If we want to live with Christ, we must be like Him and to be like Him we must be different than the world. Christians live differently because 1) we have better example to follow, 2) We have a better way to love, and 3) We have the assurance of an all loving God. Let’s take a quick look at each reason we can live differently than the world around us.
A Better Example – v. 16a
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us…”
Understanding what this verse says is pretty simple. These Christians understood that Christ had set the example. This type of knowledge and understanding comes from the ability to examine the facts surrounding the subject. John is saying that these Christians can understand love by examining it first hand. John was saying in essence, “This is how you can know what love looks and feels like, Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice just for you.” As Christians, these men and women should have had a first hand experience in living each day with a God who loves them. They should have understood well the importance of Christ’s sacrifice to save them.
This John is the same John that wrote the gospel John. When John said these words “He laid down His life for us…” he would have thought about what he saw that day Jesus was crucified. He would have been in the garden where they all fled from the roman soldiers. He would have seen and heard Jesus weeping and praying so hard that he sweated blood instead of tears. He would have heard the crowd cry “Crucify, crucify.” He would have been there to watch Jesus being beaten to a bloody pulp. He could have seen Jesus’ disfigured body, so badly beaten that even His own mother wouldn’t be able to tell who he was. John was there watching as Pilate gave Jesus to the Jews to be crucified. Jesus looked down at John from the cross. “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” He stood and watched as Christ needed to drink. He heard Jesus’ final words, “IT IS FINISHED.”