1 John 3: 11-16 (Free Text For Easter 5 - 2016)
“Love, As Jesus Loved You”
On this Sunday in Easter we rewind briefly to the upper room. Jesus said many things that prepared his disciples for the Ascension. As we near that service next week, we take comfort and direction from a Savior who helps us understand his presence with beyond his time with us on this earth. He leads us to see his sacrificial love. He leads us to show willing obedience through our love. John’s books speak volumes about that Maundy Thursday tone: Jesus says, “Love as I have loved you.”
Hatred Comes From Sin
Turn on the morning news, and the weather report is quickly overshadowed by the list of shootings from the shadows of last night. For a moment in time Adam and Eve did not have to watch for a weather report, nor did murder enter into their minds. But their descent from grace to sin brought a new contrast: LOVE and HATE. If Adam and Eve had a news paper to read, one morning headline would have read: “Jealous Son Kills Brother at Church after the Offering.” If looks could kill … If thoughts could kill … John borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount: “whoever hates his brother is a murdered.”
There is hatred in this world. We see it all around us. We see its harmful, and even fatal, results in society, in wars, in our daily struggle of vocations, and even in our own family life. But we don’t have to turn on the news to realize the presence of hate. We have known hatred in our own hearts. We know what jealousy feels like. We know how easily a temper springs up. We know how easily our own frustrations turn hatred into words we now regret. Too many cases hateful thoughts turned into actions that were meant to harm.
Paul said, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18). Hatred comes from sin. And because we are steeped in sin, hatred comes naturally to us all. John, taking the lead of his Savior’s teaching, equates hatred with murder: “and you know that know murderer has eternal life.” Hatred is a reality in a world that has turned against a God of love.
Love Comes From God
But there is also love in the world. After the Fall into Sin, divine love was not a natural thing. It had to be revealed, reintroduced, to mankind. It had to be presented in a message from God. That message is Christ Jesus. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Love and Hate meet at the cross according to God’s Divine plan. The contrast of Love of Hate at the cross is at the very core of what is happening on Good Friday. God hates sin and all who do wrong (Psalm 5:5) , yet God so loved the world (John 3:16). God’s wrath burns righteously over our sin, yet God’s genuine love for us prevents him from carrying it out on us. God planned a way to be just and to be the one who justifies (Romans 3: 26). He had to allow his wrath to punish sin. He had to allow his love to save the sinner. So in one swoop of love and hatred he sacrificed his One and Only Son for the sins of the entire world. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Love Prevails Among God’s Children
At the beginning of this chapter John poured out a familiar and wonderful truth: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are.”
Page through John’s letter and you will see the contrast between love and hate resolved. His letter is a very easy read and well worth a few moments of your reading time. You will see that love prevails where God prevails. Love prevails where God’s children are present. Love prevails among those who are of God because “love comes from God” (1 John 4: 7). Love prevails when Christ lives in us and through us. God’s Love prevails over our burdened consciences, because God and his love for us in Christ is greater than our hearts.
So John draws the conclusion: “And we also ought to lay down our lives for one another.” Hatred comes from sin. Loves comes from God. That contrast is resolved on the cross at Calvary. There God’s love prevails. There Christ’s love for us is introduced to mankind. There God’s love appeased his own anger over our sins. There God moves us to see that he has lavished his love on us and made us children of love.
“We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4: 19). Seeing the contrast between love and hatred resolved, the Bible does not hesitate to set God’s children in motion. “Everyone who loves has been born of God” (1 John 4: 7). Peter wrote: “Above all love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Because God has made us he children he has made us his message of Christ’s love to the world.Think of hatred like bad graffiti. There is no way to prevent it from happening. But once it is there it cannot be ignored. There only are only two ways to get rid of it: scrub it out completely or cover it over completely.
God has done both with our sin and our hatred. God has scrubbed out sin from our hearts with the power scrubber of his Holy Word. God’s love has covered our multitude of sins, not with egg shell paint, but with the precious blood and righteousness of His Son, whom he poured out generously on the cross. God’s love always prevails over hate.
Love Shows Itself in Words and Actions
John writes a few verses later: “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3: 18). Jesus shows us his love with the actions and truth of his sufferings and death. The sacrifice Jesus made on the cross is God’s love in action. As we continue to review the history of Christ’s love for us, we are too growing in our reflection of that love to each other. As Christ put God’s love into action, so the children of God’s love put love into action.
Paul wrote: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger … and every form of malice … be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4: 31-32) … “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness and humility … forgave as the Lord forgave you … and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossian 3: 12-14).
Love as you have been loved. Guard your thoughts of rage with new thoughts of love and forgiveness. Guard your tongues with words that build up, encourage and offer helpful wisdom. Use all that God has given you toward the promotion of Christ’s name and to the benefit of the people in your life. Lace your homes with words and actions that bring unity and peace.
Remember that song:
We are one in the Spirit; We are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us!