“A woman was surprised at church one day when another woman, who had often snubbed her, went out of her way to give her a big hug before the service. She wondered what had initiated her change of heart. She got her answer at the end of the service when the pastor instructed, ‘Your assignment for next week is the same as last week. I want you to go out there and love somebody you just can’t stand.’”
–Reader’s Digest, [4/02]
“If loving others were only as easy as giving a hug to someone you don’t like, we all could excel in love. Just hug them and move on! But, love is a bit more difficult than that! It requires continual effort, because at the heart of loving others is putting the other person ahead of yourself, and that is always a huge battle. For this reason, the New Testament as a whole and the apostle John in this letter never tire of exhorting us to love one another.”–bible.org
To dwell above with saints we love
O, that will be glory;
But to dwell below with saints we know --
Well, that's another story!
Verse 11: “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
“Message” in Greek is, aggelia, tidings, news, message, report. Aggelia is related to a number of New Testament words including, to announce, command; proclaim ,and gospel.
“Message, announcement: as of something good; not a mere command, as the law. The Gospel message of Him who loved us, announced by His servants, is, that we love the brethren; not here all mankind, but those who are our brethren in Christ, children of the same family of God, of whom we have been born anew.”–Marvin Vincent
What was the message?
“From the beginning:” They had the message of love for the brother-hood from the beginning of the Gospel and it goes back to the time of Cain and Abel (1 John 3:12). –Robertson
From the beginning of their Christian life John's readers had been taught the importance of love for one another. It was not something they had never heard before. John was not telling them some new truth or something he had invented. As John Calvin said “John reminds us that he was teaching nothing but what had been heard by the faithful concerning love from the beginning and had become old through long usage.”
Jesus taught His disciples to love each other:
John 13:34,35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Matthew 22:37-39, “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
John 15:12,13, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
I have been the pastor of churches that adhered very closely the letter of the law. Paul tells us “Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:5,6). Very little love was demonstrated toward others in the church.
Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas is a good example of a church that attempts to keep the letter of the law. WBC is known for its hate speech, especially against LGBT people (homophobia), Catholics (anti-Catholicism), Muslims (Islamophobia), Jews (religious antisemitism), American soldiers and politicians. Ignoring the Scripture that says, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) and “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8).
What began as WBCs rallying cry “God hates fags” has now devolved into a comprehensive inclusion of nearly every group, every nation, and every person who is not involved in their church. They are quick to assert that God hates anyone who does not believe exactly as they do and who does not act as they do. But the incredible truth is, God loves every member of Westboro Baptist Church. He hates their tactics, but He loves them.
Does God hate everybody? Because of who God is, and the fact that He is holy, He has no choice but to hate sin and the sin nature—that deep part of an unbeliever that incites rebellion against God. But God also loves everyone. Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Laying down one’s life for another is the highest expression of love; therefore, Christ’s sacrifice is His demonstration of love to people. God also shows His love through His common grace to all His creation. “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9). Jesus said God causes “His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45) and God “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). Barnabas and Paul would later say the same thing: “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17)–Adapted from gotquestions.org
God loves you, no matter who you are. Does God love a thief? Yes, He does! Does God love an adulterer? Yes, He does! Does God love a homosexual? Yes, He does! Does God love a murderer? Yes, He does! Please understand that when I say “love,” I mean agape love, that is, God's unconditional love for all mankind. God loves us because of Who He is, and not because of who we are.” – David J. Stewart, jesus-is-savior.com
I am not saying that the church should not stand against sin, but it must be done in love! Oswald Chambers writes, “In the teachings of Jesus Christ the element of judgment is always brought out— it is the sign of the love of God.”
Verse 12: “Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
John takes us back to Genesis 4 with the tragedy of the first murder. Cain was a farmer; Abel was a herdsman. When it came time to make an offering to the Lord, Cain offered the fruit of the ground, while Abel offered an animal sacrifice. Cain's offering was rejected while Abel's was accepted. Cain was jealous and very angry that God favored the offering of his righteous brother Abel. In a fit of jealousy Cain murders Abel.
Cain serves as a negative example of whom not to follow. Instead of loving his brother he did the opposite, he brutally murdered him. The reason John gives for this murder is because his deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous. Why did he murder him? Jealousy, envy, resentment. Again we find the stark contrast between righteous and evil deeds, Cain…was of the evil one. In the immediate context this imagery serves to illustrate 1 John 3:8a: “the one who practices sin is of the devil.” This is also similar to John 8:44, where Jesus told his adversaries “you people are from your father the devil…he was a murderer from the beginning.”
“When someone claims to be a Christian, someone claims to be in union with God and union with Jesus Christ, possessing eternal life, we are instructed here to examine the character of their love life, for therein lies the proof of their claim. Christians who are genuinely born of God manifest that transformation by means of righteousness and love. Those are the two basic behavioral tests, the two measurements of conduct. And we have looked at the first, that is righteousness, in the prior passage. You remember we started in verse 4, moving down through verse 10 and we were told that the one who practices righteousness, verse 7, is righteous. Verse 8, the one who practices sin is of the devil. In verse 9, ‘No one who is born of God practices sin because his seed abides in him, he cannot sin, he's born of God.’ Verse 10 finally summing it up, ‘By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious. Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God," and then comes the transition, verse 10, "nor the one who does not love his brother.’” –John MacArthur
Verse 13: “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.” “Don’t be surprised!”
We should expect no better treatment from the world than Abel received from his wicked and cruel brother. This was a lesson to the Church, with hundreds of years of persecution and ultimate martyrdom to come. The church should not expect justice nor mercy from people who are the enemies of God.
“Cain's hatred was a picture of the world's hatred of believers. The devil inspired jealousy within his heart; his jealousy gave rise to hatred; and his hatred issued forth in murder. And John presents Cain to us as the model of the world. The ‘world,’ that is, humanity aligned in rebellion against God, is Cain's posterity and it will continue to respond to righteousness in the same way he did. Therefore, says John in 1John 3:13, ‘Do not wonder that the world hates you.’ We should not be surprised if the world hates us as Christians. After all, the same devil who inspired Cain to hate and ultimately murder Abel has the world in his grip (1John 5:19, John 8:44).” –John Piper
“An ancient proverb states that you can judge a man’s character by who his enemies are. That is also true in the spiritual realm. The world loves its own, but since Christ chose believers out of the world, the world hates them (John 15:19).” –John MacArthur, Strength for Today
“To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.”
Matthew 10:22, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.”
Matthew 24:9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
John 15:18-20, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you… If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
2 Timothy 3:12,13 (Phillips), “Persecution is inevitable for those who are determined to live really Christian lives, while wicked and deceitful men will go from bad to worse, deluding others and deluding themselves.”
I spoke at a Halloween event in the High Desert years ago. The young people were led through the horrors of a haunted swamp, then were brought into an old barn, where they sat on logs to listen to my message. I began with a series of jokes to get their attention, then I opened my Bible and read a verse or two. The response was shocking! The young people started cursing me, and in a few minutes it was total chaos as they began to walk out, cursing loudly at they went. Did they hate me? No they hated God and His word.
Verse 14: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”
A person whose life is marked by selfish hatred of others shows no evidence of new life in Christ. Augustine said, “Love is the only sign that distinguishes the children of God from the children of the devil.”
As I reflect on my condition before I came to Christ, all I can say is, “Thank you Jesus for delivering me from death,” 1 Corinthians 1:9,10, “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death…” Before Christ moved in we were in darkness living a life of destruction, without hope, prone to sin and evil. We were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Now in Christ we are made alive, (Ephesians 2:1). “Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 1:5). “As in Adam all die, in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
“Jesus says the world will hate us because we belong to Him. When we live God’s way the light of Christ exposes the darkness in the life of the non-believers soul. When we live God’s way there is a stark contrast between us and the rest of the world. The life of the believer confronts a non-believer with their own sinfulness. Rather than repent, they often choose to attack the messenger. This is why Jesus was killed. Rather than reform their ways, it was easier to simply eliminate Jesus and continue to think of themselves as doing fine.” –Rev. Bruce Goettsche, unionchurch.com
1 Peter 1:22, “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”
“He who does not love his brother abides in death”
The world, by hating believers, gives evidence of its true spiritual position,
as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12).
“Spiritual death involves the absence of spiritual love; the presence of it marks spiritual life. This closing statement of this verse makes clear that spiritual death is the condition of man by nature (Ephesians 2:1,5). It is the exercise of love in its broadest scope that is here referred to, love, that is to say, shown not merely to believers but to fellowmen. ‘Faith worketh by love’ and ‘faith without works is dead.’ He who professes faith and does not exercise love is after all in his old state of death. “–Vine
Verse 15: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Hatred for one's brother is reiterated by John in three other passages:
•1 John 2:9, “The one who says he is in the light and [yet] hates his brother is in the darkness until now.”
•1 John 2:11, “But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
•1 John 4:20, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
He is not saying that murderers cannot be saved. Paul was a murderer before he was saved, “I persecuted this Way to the death” (Acts 22:4). David commanded Joab to arrange Uriah's (Bathsheba’s husband) death. Moses murdered an Egyptian, “He looked all around, and when he didn’t see anyone, he beat the Egyptian to death and hid the body in the sand” (Exodus 2:12).
“Murderer is the word here that just means that, someone who slays a man. ‘No murderer has eternal life abiding in him.’ Are you saying that if someone commits a murder they can never be saved? No. I am saying that if someone continues with a murderous heart, they're not saved, right? Paul was a murderer, was he not? Didn't he persecute and kill Christians? He says, “I was a blasphemer and a murderer.” But he repented and was forgiven. All sinners can be saved, that's not what we're talking about here. We're not talking about who can be saved, we're talking about who is saved. And people with murderous hearts have never been transformed. They're just like Cain, they are children of the evil one.” –John MacArthur
“All of which means that the one who habitually hates his fellow-man to the exclusion, of course, of any good attitude towards him, is a potential murderer. Should occasion arise, his hate would issue in an action like that of Cain. A person like that, John says, does not have eternal life abiding in him. In short, he is unsaved.”–Wuest
“This is not saying someone who commits murder cannot be a Christian. Sin is forgivable, but lifestyle actions reveal the heart. It is saying that one who habitually hates cannot be a Christian. Love and hate are mutually exclusive! Hate takes a life, but love gives its life.” –Utley
Verse16: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
The Bible is trying to tell us that genuine God-like love knows no boundaries and sets no limits. It draws no lines. It never says, “This far and no farther!” True love is love without limits! If I really love you then no sacrifice is too great. Like the man who said, “Darling, I love you. I'd climb the highest mountain for you; I'd swim through alligator infested waters for you; I'd fight a jungle of lions for you; I'll be over to tonight if it doesn't rain.” This isn't real love! Genuine love knows no boundaries and no conditions. It is freely given and asks nothing in return.
“If you want to see what this love is, look at Jesus Christ. In his death for us on the cross, it is fully displayed. In other words, the Christian life is the imitation of Christ. ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:5). ‘Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps’ (1Peter 2:21). No one can look at Christ and then claim not to know what the Christian life is.” – William Barclay
October 2, 2006, was a dark day for the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. That morning, a local milkman named Charles Carl Roberts barricaded himself inside the West Nickel Mine Amish School. He was armed with three guns, knives, and over 600 rounds of ammunition. When police attempted to intervene less than half an hour later, Roberts opened fire on 11 girls all less than 14-years-old killing 5. After these brutal acts, he turned his weapon on himself and committed suicide.
It was a dark hour, but as more news became available in the days that followed, a new story began to emerge one full of courage, faith, and love. According to two of the survivors, when 13-year-old Marie Fisher began to understand what Charles Carl Roberts intended to do, she made a request. “Shoot me first,” she said, “and leave the other ones loose.” As the oldest child in the group, she hoped that her death might somehow spare the other children or provide more time for their rescue. Immediately after this request, Marie's younger sister Barbie added one more. “Shoot me second,” she said.
News of the girls' bravery and sacrificial love impacted millions of people across the country after the story broke. But according to Rita Rhoads, a local midwife close to the family of the two girls, their faith also affected their attacker. “He asked them to pray for him,’ Rhoads said. “I think that's amazing. He recognized they had something he didn't.”
He left the splendor of heaven knowing His destiny
Was the lonely hill of Golgatha there to lay down His life for me
If that isn't love the ocean is dry
There's no stars in the sky and the sparrow can't fly
If that isn't love then heaven's a myth
There's no feeling like this if that isn't love
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).
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