What does it look like for Christians to love the other? It has something to do with that which is true and something to do with obedience. We considered ‘Love’ last time (Part 3 of this series), so this time let’s focus on ‘Truth’.
This 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 and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:16-20)
John contrasts Cain (whom he has mentioned immediately prior to this passage) with Jesus.
Contrary to Cain, we see Jesus who laid down his life for another. In fact, John uses this act as a way to define love. When Jesus stepped up to the cross, he did that as the only one who didn’t need the cross to make himself acceptable to God. Why? Because, in Jesus we see the perfect Abel.
Everything that Jesus did and said was pleasing to his Father, in him there was no sin (1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22; Heb 4:15). When Jesus stepped up to the cross, he did it to make others acceptable to God. Jesus not only gave his life so that others might have life, he demonstrated what real love looks like.
Love doesn’t destroy another life. Love gives its own life that another might live. In the very least, you would have to say that this kind of love is self-sacrificial. It puts the needs of others before your own. For Jesus, it meant literally laying down his life. For many Christians across the ages, there have been numerous and constant examples of people who have forfeited their lives for the sake of others.
For John, love is not a sentiment or an emotion. It is not merely words or platitudes. It is a love that costs, a love that is not looking for return, a love that may be undeserved, a love that is without self-interest, a love that gives, a love like that of Christ. Don’t be like Cain. Be like Jesus.
And what directs this kind of love? Truth.
As Christians hold to the truth that they know in the gospel of Jesus, then it calls them to live it out, that is what it means to ‘belong to the truth’ (3:19). You cannot claim to belong to the truth, if there is no evidence of your love for others. And you cannot claim to belong to the truth if you don’t obey.
Christians demonstrate that kind of truth both inside and outside the church family all the time – be it the support offered for the needy, or the care offered to those who are ill, or the gifts given to those without, or the appeals to help those across the world in want. It comes in the way folk listen to one another, encourage one another, at times rebuke one another. It is demonstrated whenever someone serves be that formally or informally, recognised or hidden.
Most people in society like the idea of being loving towards others. Christians want to demonstrate that love both truthfully and obediently.
And here is a contrasting observation. If we let go of truth, then falsehood will diminish love because it will erode away the very basis upon which love is built.
If as a society we rip that which is true from its moorings and replace it with an ‘alternative truth’ then that will have an effect on the way we both understand love and live out our love. It will mean that as a society we will try to love in ways that are not pleasing or acceptable to God. And it will also mean that that love will show itself to be problematic, and in the end not really loving at all.
Christians must truly love, and we know how to because in Jesus we have true love demonstrated sacrificially. Christian love is a love for others that is both pleasing and acceptable to God before it is to the world.
For more in this Series:
Uncomfortable Love (Part 1 of 6)
Perfect Love (Part 2 of 6)
Love (Part 3 of 6)
Truth (this one)
Obedience (Part 5 of 6)
Loving in Relationships (Part 6 of 6)