Summary: John tells us we run the danger of being like Cain (who killed his brother). Why would he warn us of this, and what does the Bible say we can do to avoid this danger in our lives?
OPEN: The cartoon "Peanuts" has been in newspapers for years. The author of that delightful comic strip actually died some time back… but the comic was so powerful and amusing that newspapers have simply reran the comics of the past.
In one of “Peanuts" comic strips Lucy says to Shroeder (the boy she’s hopelessly in love with)
"Guess what...If you don’t tell me that you love me, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to hold my breath until I pass out!"
Looking up from his piano, Shroeder says, "Breath-holding in children is an interesting phenomenon. It could indicate a metabolic disorder. A forty-milligram dose of Vitamin B6 twice a day might be helpful. I think that’s probably it... You need Vitamin B6. You might also consider eating more bananas, avocados, and beef liver..."
As he goes back to his piano, Lucy sighs, "I ask for love, and all I get is beef liver!"
APPLY: Love is a powerful need in people’s lives
ILLUS: Back in the 70’s one psychiatrist wrote:
“In my practice at the Atlanta Psychiatric Clinic, people sometimes ask me what psychiatry is all about. To me, the answer is increasingly clear. Almost every emotional problem can be summed up in one particular bit of behavior: It’s a person walking around screaming, ‘For pity’s sake, love me.’ Love me, that’s all. He goes through a million different manipulations to get somebody to love him.”
That was the very need that motivated God to send His son to the cross:
John 3:16 tells us: “For God so LOVED the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God knew we needed someone say “I love you”
One of the most powerful messages I have ever seen has been a picture of Jesus on a cross with the caption beneath declaring:
“Jesus said ‘I loved you this much.’ And then He stretched out His arms and died.”
The books in our Bibles haven’t always had chapter and verse divisions. Somewhere during the middle ages, someone realized it would be easier to study the Bible if it was divided in a way that people could locate specific section of any book. So, I’m not sure if it’s a quirk of Scripture or if God deliberately led the people who originally put chapter and verse divisions into the Bible… But, I John 3:16 is almost a mirror image of our beloved John 3:16
Here in I John 3:16 - John declares…
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
Remember – For God so LOVED the world???? Well, this is how we KNOW God’s kind of love: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…
But then John adds: “…we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
Why should we lay down our lives for our brothers? BECAUSE Jesus laid down His life for us! Now, this is obviously an important point for John because he dwells on this subject for several verses – but why is it so important?
* 1st – It’s important to John because that’s not how you and I used to live
LOOK AGAIN at 1 John 3:12 “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.”
Now why would John warn us NOT to be like Cain???
Because… we used to be like Cain.
That’s the type of world we grew up in.
That’s the kind of example that others set for us.
That was the kind of response that would have come naturally to us.
Paul writes Titus and says: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:3-5)
Initially, when I read that passage from Titus, I visualized a Jerry Springer kind of person. The type of person who’s always screaming, always accusing, always concerned only about themselves, always eager to get into a brawl in front of God and everybody.
But you folks aren’t like that. I have yet to see any of you behave like that in the foyer on Sunday mornings. In fact, when I go down to the Supermarket to buy groceries, I never see anyone yelling and screaming in the aisle ways.
So most people aren’t like the goofballs they parade before us on Springer’s show. However, we do have a tendency to be like Cain. As the passage out of Titus says: “WE lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” That means that this is a common experience for ALL of us.