When we become children of God at our new birth we are not just patched up or even washed clean we are whole new creatures the old has died and the new has come 2 Corinthians 5:17. If we remember this it makes it so much easier to see ourselves as God sees us with our spirit man as the dominant force in our lives and as we are joined with His Spirit we can walk in victory more and more in the process of sanctification, (1 Peter 1:2) so becoming more and more like Jesus. In these few verses John returns to the subject of ‘Love’.
This time, as we recognise ‘the Father loves us’ (Lesson 5) we are challenged to love others, even those who hate us. But in Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus states we are to love the Lord with all our heart but to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we have a problem loving and accepting ourselves it is going to rub off on our relationships even with friends and family before we consider any enemies we may have. Enemies really highlight our insecurities so we need to work on seeing ourselves as God sees us. At the heart of the Christian faith is not a set of rules, even formal doctrines and a life of theological correctness but life-changing, relationship-restoring, and community-transforming love.
Take a simple example. Consider a wrapped chocolate sweet. There is a lovely shiny wrapper with an attractive name but if we chose that just because of the wrapper we would miss out on so much. If we kept looking at it and admiring the outside without seeing and tasting the inside how crazy would that be as the inside is far more important and satisfying than the outside?! The world encourages us to focus all our energy, time and attention on the outside of ourselves but God is far more interested in the satisfying centre. This is where our deep intimate relationship with Him grows and gains strength and where we need to focus our attention, after all that is the part of us that we are going to live with forever. We love ourselves simply by pulling down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3) of old ways of seeing ourselves and replacing these thoughts with the Word of God and how He sees us, as illustrated in the following download. This takes place in our minds and it is a moment by moment choice but vital if we are to walk the love walk as Jesus did.
Paul wrote ‘And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ Ephesians 3:17-19. Believers need to love each other as God has loved us because we need the support and help of each other especially at this time in history. There is so much strife and discord outside the Church in the way the world lives their lives. When we are persecuted and rejected for being a Christian, we need to be supportive of each other. John reminds us that this sort of trouble has been around since the time of Cain.
What was wrong with Cain? 1 John 3:13
We can see in the story of Cain and Abel how Adam must have passed on God’s demonstrated instruction to His children. We read that Abel did what was right, (Hebrews 11:4) sacrificing a lamb (the firstborn of his flock) and Cain offered up the work of his own hands and was told by God that this was not the right way. Cain would have known that only a sacrifice with the shedding of blood would have satisfied God, after all God Himself sacrificed to ‘make garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them’ after the Fall, Genesis 3:21.
This shedding of blood as a sacrifice for sin was passed down to every generation, and is described in almost every book of the Old Testament, however it was really only a pointer to the things that were to come – a temporary measure. As we read the Old Testament, we find that every year, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in first the Tabernacle, then the Temple with the blood of a lamb that had been sacrificed. He would sprinkle the Mercy Seat covering the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth with the blood, to atone for the sins of the people, Hebrews 9. He himself had to be purified before he entered the Holy of Holies for this purpose. We can never get back to God in our own way. Our own good deeds are never good enough to make us right with God. The only way back to God would be provided by God – a single and lasting sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the One who was present at the creation of the Universe, He was to be the bridge over the ‘gulf of separation’. ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’ Hebrews 9:22
Cain was very resentful of Abel’s favour with God, even though it was his own disobedience that had caused the break in relationship with God. This led to strong jealousy and hatred as he allowed the sin to go unchecked in his heart, culminating in him murdering his own brother bringing judgement on himself and great sadness to his parents. There is a certain likeness here to Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus Matthew 26:47. Although he was offered many ways of escaping the temptation, he hardened his heart. After the betrayal he had deep regrets, but it was too late, 1 Corinthians 10:13.
It is very difficult when we meet non-Christians as they feel awkward around us and often don’t understand why they feel this way. This causes them to react towards us in a negative way often making it obvious they do not like us. Just Jesus in us can cause them to feel convicted of their sin and exposed. It is important that we continue to love them and do not add condemnation to their problems by rejecting them. Jesus wants to show His total inclusive unconditional love to them. The problem can be that the more we love one another as believers the more it causes those who do not follow Christ to hate us, and becoming more outwardly aggressive. They are reminded that they have not got eternal life but death. At any time they could choose the opposite way and that is what our aim should be in our behaviour – showing love despite their reactions.
In the book the ‘Heavenly Man’ Brother Yun from China shares his testimony about how a very humble elderly man visited him in prison weekly for about 6 months and told him about the love of God and all he got in return were grunts or swear words. The man never gave up on him and Yun agreed to read and came to Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour. What an effect Brother Yun has had in today’s world, such an encouragement to the persecuted Church and a challenge to the Western world to pray and give to people who are behind bars for the sake of the Gospel. We do not need to judge people before their time or give them an opportunity or excuse for not following Him, John 16:8.
Love our enemies.
Jesus is not just asking us to love those we like, or feel comfortable around. All through the Bible there are practical examples on how to love those we do not like, for a host of different reasons. Jesus takes this a step further and calls us to love those we hate because they have wronged us. It may be anything from murder of a close relative, through to stolen belongings, to speaking against us. Our response has to be the same, to love them in God’s way and see them as He sees them. We can only love our enemies and do good to those who hate us or wrong us if we see them as valuable and precious, 1 John 2:11. Jesus prayed for those who wronged Him, Luke 23:34. Stephen saw the people who stoned him as those whom God loved and wanted to reconcile to Himself, Acts 7:50-60. Peter says we must live in harmony, being compassionate, humble and love as brothers, 1 Peter 3:8-11.
Do not retaliate – Proverbs 24:29; Matthew 5:39; Romans 12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Peter 3:9
Show mercy – Proverbs 3:3; Micah 6:8; Luke 6:36-37.
Learn to forgive – Mark 11:22-25; Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:13
Practical love – Proverbs 25:21-22; Romans 12:9-21; John 15:20
Pray for them – Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:28-29; Luke 23:32-34; Acts 7:60.
Do not speak evil – Psalm 7:1; Proverbs 17:9; James 4:11;
Look for ways to bless them – Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14
Jesus shows us in John 13:1-17 when He was washing the disciples’ feet how to love all people in the same way. He washed Judas’ feet at the same time as those of Peter and John, knowing what Judas was about to do. He did not cut him out of their Passover feast or make an example of him even though He wanted to warn His friends. Would we be happy to have a person at our Christmas dinner whom we knew was about to destroy us? Modern foot-washing is doing any menial task that will cost us energy, pride, risk of being misunderstood and loss of friendship. Examples are visiting the sick, cleaning the Church, making meals, collecting children and child-minding and many more acts of service. These are characteristic of a true disciple (John 13:35) and show all people how we love each other.
‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’. Matthew 5:44-45
Prayer ‘In Jesus’ name, I make a fresh and strong commitment today to live the life of love, to let the tenderness of God flow through me and heal the wounded hearts of those I meet.
Father teach me to love even when things go wrong; to be patient and kind when the children are underfoot; to overlook the spiteful words of an angry spouse; to rejoice when someone gets something I was wanting.
Teach me to talk in love, to lay gossip quietly aside and to take up words of grace instead. Lord, Your Word says that Your love is already inside me… that it has been shed abroad in my heart. So today I resolve to remove every obstacle that would keep that love from flowing freely into the lives of others.
I put resentments behind me, and I forgive all those who have done me wrong. In the days ahead, cause me to increase and excel and overflow with Your love. Cause me to be what this world needs most of all …. A living example of love, Amen.’
13 Love one another – 1 John 3:11-15 Challenge Questions
Read the beginning of the notes on ‘Love one another’ – 1 John 3:11-15
1. Have you learnt how important it is to love yourself? How did you learn this lesson? What advice could you give to someone who has this problem?
2. What do you feel about the story of Cain and Abel?
3. Take one of the verses from the list of How? to love your enemies and write it out.
4. Can you give more examples of foot washing in our culture? Have you seen this action in your Church?
5. What challenged you from Jesus washing Judas’ feet? Give reasons.
Read the verses 1 John 3:16-20
6. How does John describe love in 1 John 3:16? How can we describe this kind of love in our lives today?
7. Give an example of this love that you have seen.
8. How do you think God feels about the material wealth in the West when He has so many of His children suffering in other countries?
9. How do you feel about your wealth? (We all belong in the top 5% of world wealth)
10. What are these verses saying about giving? Is it related to love?
11. How do the verses say it is possible to have a clear conscience?
12. If we see someone has lost a job what does God expect us to do for them according to these verses?
13. If this person had been very unkind to our children the previous week how would this affect our response? Why or why not?
14. From the previous studies what have you found most helpful, most challenging and most encouraging? Have you seen things change in your life? How?
Memory verse ‘Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’ Luke 1:45