1 John 3:16-18 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 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? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
When the disciple John wrote his pastoral letters to several congregations, he was encouraging the church and followers of Christ to grow in love for all people. Even in the 1st century, there were divisions and walls that separated people based on ethnicity, culture, economics, and sex. In this passage, John defines what love is when he says, ‘By this we know love’. The this he speaks of is then defined as ‘that He (Christ) laid down His life for us’. Jesus didn’t just talk the talk; He took action by walking the walk! His message of love was clearly defined when Jesus willingly hung on the cross as a sacrifice for each of us.
The passage continues by saying we should do the same thing, ‘lay down our lives for the brothers (others)’. John isn’t suggesting we hang on that cross, but that we do sacrifice for others who are in need, keeping our hearts tender to those needs, regardless of how the individuals might be different from us. Can we look at others through the eyes of Christ, blind to the differences between us, seeing only our commonalities as children of the Father? This is how we show love and justice in a broken world.
John ends by calling us all, ‘Little children’. As children, we learned a phrase that speaks simply and clearly to the heart of this passage, Actions speak louder than words! It is through our actions, not our words, that we live out Your sacrifice, showing God’s love living in us. It is through our actions that we live out the belief that we are all brothers and sisters, children of God, all part of one family!
Lord, thank You for the sacrifice You made for us all. Help us to understand how to live out Your sacrifice in this broken, challenging world so that we are an example of You and Your love. Guard our hearts, our words, our actions.