Faithlife Sermons

Love or Murder

1 John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Sibling relationship can be very interesting. Few other relationships can see two people go from arguing and bickering to the point that fists come out and words that should never be spoken and thrown like mud at one another, only to turn to steadfast loyalty at an instant if the situation calls for it. Many siblings are nothing alike, in personalities, preferences, or opinions, but in a strong family when one of them is in need the others will come to their aid, regardless of the fights and divisions they had before.
At least, this is how it should be, and when it isn’t it is unnatural. We should expect family members to help each other because they should love each other. Two siblings may not see each other for years, and ten minutes over coffee will reunite them in ways that years of friendship may not do. This is because they are family, and families are rightly expected to love one another.
The family of God is an even closer family than any blood bond could forge. We have the most important things in common, we serve the same Lord, are forgiven by the same Divine blood, are heirs of the same Kingdom and promises, and have experienced the same love in Christ. John makes it clear that this not only brings us to God, but consequently brings us closer than family to each other as Spiritual Siblings.

Love: The Foundation of Christian Living

Last week we looked at what characterizes a child of God and an enemy of God. A child of God is someone who has been changed by divine conversion and is being changed into the image of God by mirroring his character. While we know that every Christian is going to fall into sin, the true believer makes war with their sinful desires and lives a life of growth in righteousness and holiness. It creates a distinct difference between the Christian life and the lifestyles that are common in the world and a mindset that is submitted to the Word of God. A child of God is on God’s side of the great war between sin and righteousness, and someone who is not making war against sin is not genuinely a child of God.
So what does a child of God fight for? John’s answer is love. First love for God through humble obedience and warfare waged against indwelling sin, and second love for other Christians. Chapter 3:10 reads
1 John 3:10 ESV
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Notice the end where love for our siblings in Christ is pointed out specifically. This mention acts as a transition into our text tonight. John tells us that the message we heard from the beginning was to love one another. This is reminiscent of 2:7 when John said that he was writing both an old and new commandment. This commandment was, or course, to love one another. This was a command assumed from creation, it was the second great command of the Old Testament, and it was an essential part of the Gospel right from the beginning. Often when the Gospel is preached, it’s preached as if it is simply a matter of your personal relationship with God and that is it. Right from the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel, loving unity with the church and the Christians in it is an important part of the message. In 1:3 John said that he was writing to them so that they may have fellowship with him. A large part of the promise that we have in Christ is the place we have in his Kingdom, the Kingdom made up of those who have come to know him. We are, each of us, part of the eternal reward of ever other believer. The fellowship and love that we have together is at the very core of what it means to know Christ.
So what we read about being on God’s side of the war against sin also means being on the same side of other Christians. We aren’t just called to make war against sin, we are called to support everyone else who is fighting the same fight as children of God in Christ.

The World Known by Hatred of Christians, Christians know by Love for Christians

The contrast made may seem a little extreme. He tells us to love other Christians and not be like Cain, the first murderer. Why such an extreme comparison? Once again, John’s black and white language is meant to help us understand that there is no middle group in the great conflict. You are either in the dark or the light, you are either walking in sin or walking in righteousness and fighting with sin, there is no middle ground. Similarity, you either love the body of Christ or you don’t.
Now, everyday life rarely seems so black and white. We might think we don’t love every single Christian sitting with us in the pews, but we certainly don’t hate them, and definitely don’t want to murder them, but that is kind of the point. John wants to give us a bit of a clearer view of how things are in an eternal perspective.Now, you certainly aren’t called to treat every Christian you run into like they are your best friend, because you only have so much energy and time to invest. But what it is saying is that there is an assumed familial love and connection that you have with every single Christian on the planet. This is going to change how you act towards other Christians. The person in the pew next to you is not just another person, even if you don’t know anything else about them, you know they are a brother or sister in Christ, and that is enough make you obligated to love them. If you don’t, you aren’t treating them like family and are actually being hateful.
If that doesn’t make sense, imagine if your family stopped treating you like a part of the family. If they just refused to acknowledge you as one of them. That is hatred according to John and is contradictory to the nature of a Christian. If you’ve been following our series through the book of Genesis, you know that Cain and Abel represent two different kinds of people, the people of God and the people of the world. The people of God act in faith and are therefore seen as righteous in God’s sight. The result is that those born of the world, with a self-centred and perverted belief and lifestyle like Cain, hate the righteous with jealousy and condemnation of their own actions. So that naturally inclination of the Christian is love towards other Christians, and the natural inclination of the world towards Christians is hatred. That hatred is not necessarily violent, but it will show itself as we prove to be not of this world. John’s point is that, when you are not showing love towards other Christians, you are not acting like a spiritual descendant of Seth and Abel, you are acting like a spiritual descendant of Cain.
For John, this is one of the clear evidences of a Christian. You cannot act like Cain and say you are of Christ. You cannot have assurance of your salvation if you have no love for the people of God.

The Sacrificial Nature of Love

But what is love? What does this love look like, and how can we identify it in our own life? Not surprisingly, John points to Christ as the example of Christian love.
1 John 3:16 ESV
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Christians surprisingly often go to the world to define love, however John reminds us that the world is in the family of Cain, the family of hatred and murder. They don’t know what love is, why would we go to them to learn about what love is? You can be sure that their ideas of love are going to be twisted. Instead, we have the direct example of Christ, and it is primarily an example of self sacrifice. As Christians are being made into the image of God, we are called to walk in his footsteps in all of life, and how we love is most foundational to how we live.
But perhaps this is even to vague. It is common for someone to say “ya I’ll be there for you, I’d take a bullet for you.” Without much meaning behind it. So John gives us a most practical example of this love.
1 John 3:17–18 ESV
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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
On the most basic level, brotherly love means making sure your fellow Christian is financially provided for, even to the sacrifice of your own goods. Is this not exactly what Christ meant when he told us to love our neighbour as ourselves? You look after yourself, you feed and clothe yourself, but when you see a fellow Christian in need, what do you do?
And this does not only apply to finances or physical needs (emotional support, company for the lonely, time and effort for things they need help with). This isn’t work or a tax you are required to put in in order to be a Christian, this is love manifested in those who have experienced the love of Christ. His sacrifice cost him the highest cost for our most urgent need. Like the servant showed mercy was expected to forgive his fellow servant, we who have experienced love are expected to show that love to others.
Love means you want to see your spiritual siblings do well in every way and you are willing to invest in that when you are able to. It means you care about other Christian enough to do whatever you can to care for them, recognizing that such love is no more than what Christ has shown for them and for you on the cross. Our text ends
1 John 3:18 ESV
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Love in the NT is active and visible. It is also personal. It’s not political. I’ve heard Christians claim that if you have love as a Christian you have to agree with their particular social political view. Scripture never frames love in this way. Love is shown personally in how you treat the Christians that are around you. It’s filling the needs of the Christians you meet like you would help your own family, and moreso.
Love reflects Christ, hatred and indifference reflects Cain
Love realizes our inheritance, hatred and indifference evidence no inheritance
Love proves we are part of the family, hatred and indifference proves hypocrisy
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