Summary: 5th in the series "Love Notes: A Letter from John." What genuine love looks like.

A girl gave a photo to a boy she was dating with this inscription on the back. “Dear Johnny, the last two weeks have been the best of my whole life. I will love you as long as the stars shine and until the oceans run dry. Love Susan. p.s. If we break up I want this picture back.”

We know instinctively what real love isn’t, but it can be a little slippery to define what real love is. But that’s what I want to try to do this morning, by looking at this passage of Scripture in which the beloved disciple gives us some insight into what real love looks like.

Real Love is Counter Cultural

11This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

Remember those commercials with the punch line “That’s not natural?” I’m thinking along those same lines here about genuine love. This is why love has to be commanded. It runs contrary to our fallen nature and to our society. Oh our society “loves.” Jesus talks about that, He says that even sinners love (agape!) those that love them. Even the world loves as long as you make me happy. The love we’re commanded to have though is counter cultural.

Cain is offered up as an example of the natural state of fallen man. His brother does what is right before God, becomes an irritation to him and he whacks him. John says, don’t be surprised if the world hates you too. If you really are living a counter cultural life, a life of love, a life like Jesus, you’ll be a stench to those who aren’t living that life. You’re a goody-two-shoes. Why, you’re just trying to make them look like heathens.

Still we are commanded to have a counter cultural love. In fact to not have love the kind of sacrificial, active love we’re going to talk about in a few minutes, is to hate and to hate is the same as to murder. It’s very black and white here. There’s no room for cool distance from a brother or a sister you don’t particularly care for. It’s wholehearted sacrificial love, or it’s hate and murder.

I’d say that’s a counter cultural idea.

Real Love is Sacrificial

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

You want to know what love looks like? Look no further than the cross of Christ, John tells us. This is how we know what love is. Jesus died for us.

Romans 5:7-8 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If this is our demonstration of real love, gone then is any excuse that I will love when I decide my brother or sister has become deserving of it. No rather for my love to be genuine I sacrifice my rights in favor of those who in my estimation are unlovely—in particular within the church.

Love is forgiving a debt you have a right to demand be paid. Love is sharing with others not just out of your abundance, but out of what you really need yourself—whether that be money, time or sweet corn.

Real Love is Action

18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Real love looks less like two beautiful Hollywood stars arm in arm on the beach and looks more like a room on the cancer ward where a loving husband reassures his bride ravaged by disease that she’s still the most beautiful girl in the world to him.

Love looks less like big donations made publicly to have a wing of the hospital named for the donor and more like an anonymous hero laboring by the sweat of her brow in the shadows.

Love looks less like gushing letters promising unending devotion and more like a spouse hurt, betrayed and confused, deciding to forgive and work things out.

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