Summary: Discover how true love wins over conflict in God’s love story.
Last Thursday, I watched about 10 minutes of a Winnie the Pooh St. Valentine’s Day special. I began to think about how each one of us learned what love is. From childhood to adulthood we unintentionally allow our parents, our teachers, our classmates, our dating experience and the media to engrave in our minds various definitions of love.
For some, love is the approval for obedience. For others, love is the recognition for achievement. Still others believe love is the feeling of being admired. The media tells us love is having possessions or sex when you want them.
Last night, I came across a love letter on the Internet. Let me read it to you:
No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you. I love you. I love you!
P.S. And congratulations on winning the state lottery.
This morning, we will intentionally learn and apply what love is from the greatest and most enduring love story of history. This love story involves God committing Himself to His fallen creation, even to pay with His only Son, Jesus Christ.
The text for this morning is 1 John 3:11-23, and John is dealing with the lie that a special knowledge or current perfection demonstrates our belonging to God. John wants us to know that the true demonstration of our belonging to God is the presence of unconditional love in our relationships.
Let me begin by reading 1 John 3:11-23. Let’s look together at how this love story develops.
The love story begins with the conflict with love. We see this in verses 11-15. The conflict with love is a conflict with God
John brings us back to the first relationship between two brothers to illustrate the conflict with love. Let me read what John was referring to, Genesis 4:1-11:
Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let’s go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"
"I don’t know," he replied. "Am I my brother’s keeper?"
The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
Although not explained in this incident, throughout the Bible, God expects our best, not our leftovers. Abel gave God the choice portions from the firstborn of his flock. Cain gave God some of the leftovers that he had no need for over time. When God was pleased with Abel, Cain became angry because Abel’s right action toward God highlighted Cain’s wrong action toward God. So Cain killed Abel.
Cain’s hatred for Abel is really a conflict with God. If God didn’t have an guidelines about right and wrong, Cain would not have killed Abel. Furthermore, the way we treat other people is an expression of our relationship with God.
Let me illustrate. At the Women’s New Beginning Event, I was asked to do childcare. I lovingly played and fed your children and my own, not because I had nothing better to do on Saturday morning, but because I wanted to please you and my wife, the owners of the children.
God owns human beings by right of creation. Therefore, when John writes, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers," John is saying, "We know we, who seek to please God, have a right relationship with God, evidenced in our love for that which is owned by God." Hatred of another human being is in conflict with love for God, because God is the owner of human beings.