Part 7 of Authentic, a series on 1 John
Text: 1 John 3:11-24
You can listen to this sermon here.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (v. 16).
Love One Another
Have you ever caught yourself saying something that your dad always used to say when you were a kid? A couple of my dad’s favorite sayings were (and still are) “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” and “Walk in there like you own the place.” He often used those sayings when I was a teenager searching for a part-time job.
Probably you can think of a few sayings that your father liked to say. Here are some popular dad sayings. “Do you think I’m made of money?” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “Were you brought up in a barn?” “When I was your age….” “A little hard work never hurt anyone.” “You’ll learn someday.”
The apostle John thought of himself as a father to his readers. Several times he calls them his “little children” (e.g., v. 18). One of his favorite sayings was “Love one another.” In verse 11, he writes, “For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (v. 11).
It might be annoying to here the same sayings over and over again, but usually there is some wisdom behind a dad saying. For example, dads say “Where you brought up in a barn?” because it’s wise to close the door when you’re entering or exiting your house. My kids often neglect to close our back door, and this is probably the reason why we’ve had some mice in our house.
Why is it so important to love others?
The Importance of Loving Others
In this passage, we find two reasons why it’s important that we love others.
1. Love is necessary if we are to please our Father.
Today (Father’s Day) is a day when people want to please their father. (Why are dads so difficult to shop for?) Of course, not every father is a good father, and many people aren’t interested in pleasing their father. But God is a perfect Father. In 3:1, John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” Every child of God wants to please their heavenly Father. And what pleases God most is love: our love for him and our love for others.
In our relationships, we “should not be like Cain” (v. 12), who hated his brother and murdered him (cf. Gen. 4:1-16). We are like Cain when we hate others (especially our brothers and sisters in Christ). John says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (v. 15). He was probably thinking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to those of hold, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:21-22). John also says, “And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (v. 15). (Of course, God will forgive all sins—including murder—but John is thinking of an unrepentant murderer.)
When we know there is discord between us and another person, reconciliation should be our top priority. Jesus went on to say, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24).
In our relationships, we should be like Jesus. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (v. 16). The actions of Jesus define true love (“By this we know love,” v. 16). Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11; cf. vv. 15, 17, 18). He also said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13; cf. 13:34).
True love is not a do-nothing love; it’s a self-giving love. John writes, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (vv. 17-18; cf. James 2:15-16). Fathers, we’re very good at laying down ourselves on the couch, but how good are we at laying down our lives for our family? To husbands, the apostle Paul wrote, “Love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). One way we can love others is by giving them our time.
2. Love gives us confidence that we are children of God.
There’s a logical fallacy known as the “No true Scotsman” fallacy. For example, person A says, “No Scotsman would cheer for England in the World Cup.” Person B replies, “I’m Scottish, and I’m cheering for England.” Person A says, “Well, no true Scotsman would cheer for England.” Some people would argue that John is guilty of the no true Scotsman fallacy when he says that no true Christian would continually hate others. But what John says is no different than what Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples [true Christians], if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
“By this [i.e., loving others] we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him” (v. 19). But how much love is enough to “reassure” our hearts? Sometimes “our heart condemns us” (v. 20). But John says, “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (v. 20). God knows all of our failures but will always forgive repentant sinners. John adds, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (v. 21).