Love, in this passage, is about making a choice regardless of the other persons actions or behaviors. It’s not the heart palpitating, moony-eyed love that we feel when we first are attracted to someone in a dating scenario. It’s not love that is caused by a DNA connection in a family. It’s a choice we make to be like Jesus and love those around us regardless of their actions or behaviors. I don’t know about you, but this kind of love is really challenging sometimes for me. And yet, it’s the kind of love Jesus has shown us and that He expects us to show others. It isn’t based on merit, it’s based on choice. The catch is, we are directed in this passage to make that choice for everyone around us.
Do you have people in your life, or personality styles, that you find really hard to love?
John starts this passage off by telling us what love is not. Love is not what Cain showed us when he was vengeful against his brother, Abel, and killed him. Then John goes one step further, which Jesus did also, and tells us that if we even hate someone, we have followed Cain in murder. And as if that isn’t strong enough, he goes even one step further and says that eternal life doesn’t reside in someone who is a murderer. Yikes! Now, before you start to think that you’re safe because you’ve never actually hated anyone, let me tell you what that word means in the original text: to esteem less. If you have ever thought less of someone, you have made a choice to not love them because the love of God places no judgment on anyone, therefore everyone is equally esteemed, no one less. I dare say we have all thought less of someone and in that thought, have not loved them as Jesus has loved us, unconditionally.
John then goes on to give us some examples of how we are to love the people in our lives in verses 16-18. We are to be willing to lay our lives down and to lay our needs down. Both of these actions are sacrificial and isn’t that just exactly the example Jesus showed us when He sacrificed His place in heaven to come to earth, and then sacrificed His life on earth so that we would have a place in heaven. By His actions, He showed us how to love people who spit on Him, called Him names, beat Him and betrayed Him…He made the choice to die so that they, and we, might live.
What are your actions saying to the people in your life? Are you loving in deed and truth?
I so appreciate how John reassures us as he wraps up this set of verses because I don’t know how you think, but I over-think. I read verses like these and I start to replay all of my conversations and interactions, directing them to see if I treated anyone less than I should and therefore, didn’t love them well. I can send my brain into a tailspin in seconds! John reminds us that God knows our hearts better than we do and He will use our hearts to inform our minds. “God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything;” (v20). This is where I stop and pray, asking God to show me if I need to make changes or make amends or, if I’m handling interactions well. My heart will guide me, if I need to make a correction. If my heart does not send me a corrective action message, I can continue on boldly before God. All of my requests end in yes and amen when I follow God’s desire for loving those around me.
We end this section with a reminder that we are commanded two primary actions: believe in Jesus and love one another, just as Jesus Himself commanded. If we will allow ourselves to be ruled by God fully, we can truly live a life of love for all people. One where we treat everyone equally and show love, grace and mercy that is never based on merit and always based simply on existence. When we love like we are commanded and empowered to love, we bring heaven to earth. This love, God’s love, is the only love that has the power to change lives. In all situations, we have the ability to choose this love and I pray that we do. The enemy is taken out completely by this love. The world needs this love.