Summary: The love of God should cause to live a life of love.
Living a Life of Love
Rev. Brian Bill
Think with me about two sets of brothers. The first pair got their start a long time ago. While there was friction in their family while they were growing up, their sibling rivalry reared its head in a heated and horrible way when they were older. One brother raised cattle while the other focused his farming on crops. Recognizing that God deserved recognition for blessing him, the younger brother slaughtered some of the firstborn of his flock, and generously and whole-heartedly offered the best portions to the Lord. The older brother gathered a couple handfuls of grain and gave them half-heartedly to the Lord.
God was very pleased with the brother who made a blood sacrifice because his offering was motivated by faith. But because the older one’s attitude and actions were wrong, the Lord expressed His disfavor. This made the brother very angry and his face revealed his jealousy and desire for revenge. The Lord appealed to him to do the right thing and warned him that sin was crouching at his door, ready to pounce on him.
Instead of listening to the Lord he came up with a scheme to eliminate his brother, attacking him and slitting his throat, causing his blood to pour out on the ground. If God wanted a blood sacrifice he would give Him one! A short time later, the Lord asked him where his brother was. He lied and then snarled, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Oh, before I move on, in case you haven’t guessed by now, this guy who was contemptuous of God was named Cain. You can read more about him in Genesis 4.
Let’s fast forward several thousand years when a second set of brothers come on the scene. Known as hot heads, these brothers were angry dudes. Surprisingly though, their bad tempers did not disqualify them as Disciples of Christ because Jesus invited them to join His traveling team. Jesus even gave them a nickname by calling them Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder” (see Mark 3:17).
One time their mother requested a place of honor for them and she was put in her place (Matthew 20:20-24). I can’t help but wonder if they put her up to this. Another time one of them tried to stop someone from doing ministry because he wasn’t in their special group. This time Jesus put him in his place (Mark 9:38). Being slow to learn and quick to pull the trigger on their temper, the brothers became very angry when some Samaritans did not offer lodging to the team and turned to Jesus and asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?” Jesus rebuked them soundly for their desire to roast people they didn’t like (Luke 9:54).
Something happened though as these brothers continued to follow Jesus. In the place of anger, they both became more affectionate. Their crankiness turned into compassion. Their selfishness was transformed into selflessness. Instead of being livid, they became loving. One of them developed a new nickname and became known as the “Apostle of Love.” You know him as John and Jesus transformed him from pride, jealousy and anger into a man who couldn’t stop talking about living like Jesus and loving like Jesus.
Known as the “one who Jesus loved,” John became the one who “loved Jesus and others.” After all the others scattered when Jesus was arrested, John is the only one who stood by Christ when He was on the cross, and lovingly took Mary into his home as his own mother (John 19:27). His loud anger had been replaced with loving action. And this all happened because he “leaned on Jesus” and abided with Him (John 13:22-25). It was this same John who wrote the gospel that bears his name, the letters called 1, 2 and 3 John and the Book of Revelation.
Cain or Christ
As we continue in our verse-by-verse study of John’s letter known as 1 John, we see again the apostle’s teaching method of contrasts and comparisons. There at least four of them in chapter 3:
• Children of the Devil vs. Children of God
• Death vs. Life
• Hate vs. Love
• Cain vs. Christ
These contrasts, in particular the one between Cain and Christ, will help us understand our passage today. In verse 11 we read John’s repeated refrain, “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” The basic truths of Christianity are from the beginning, which means that they are unchanging and lasting. In contrast, the false teachers brought forth new and secret doctrines. Because love transformed his life, John can’t stop talking about how love can change ours.