One of the most popular and most misunderstood words in our culture is love. In our culture, love means we accept and approve of what the other person is doing. To be loving means we allow the person to follow whatever they feel and we dare not fringe on their lives, especially espousing our morals to them. This type of framework for love, though, is the framework which causes many to look at Christians as unloving people. Yet, the reality is nothing could be further from the truth. True love is not defined by the culture but by the Bible. It was because of God’s love that He sent Jesus Christ to die for sins (John 3:16). Sin confronts and deals with sin. To love someone is to speak biblical truth in their life with conviction and compassion. Based on a faulty definition, the culture may say Christians are those who are unloving. In reality, the mark of true Christians is they are loving. Their love for God overflows into their love for others.
In contrast to children of God, children of the devil do not express biblical love to one another. This message John has referred to previously (2:7–11) is a message those who are not in Christ fail to live out. This divide between the children of God and children of the devil on love has been going on since the beginning (see Genesis 3:15). The division is seen clearly in the example of Cain. For those who are in Christ, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (3:12). After the Fall in Genesis 3, the Word of God sets forth the first example of children of God versus children of the devil in the narrative of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. The evil heart of Cain revealed hatred and anger leading to murder. His heart was against his brother simply because of his brother’s righteousness. The hatred of his heart ultimately brought to light the result of his life: death. The Apostle John puts it in these words: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (3:15). The warning of Cain’s life should cause to reflect if the way we live is characterized by biblical love or hate. It is important to realize for those who are in Christ, when we do love, we should not be expecting to receive love in return from the world. Instead, we should not be surprised even when we show biblical love that they will hate us (3:13). Those who live in spiritual darkness and are spiritually dead do not want to have the light shined and life shown. Only when God opens their eyes and hearts will they see such love. It is only because of God we know this love. In the gospel, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, laid down His life for us. We can receive salvation in Christ because of the sacrifice of Christ. We turn from our sins and trust in Him as Lord and Savior. Then, as Christians, we follow His example of love by loving one another sacrificially (3:16). This goes beyond this vague sense of love as merely a feeling. Love is an action: “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” (3:17–18). Knowing love means knowing the God who is love. Knowing love means more than simply talking the talk; knowing love means walking the walk. As ones who have been loved by God, we extend that love to one another sacrificially. The love we show is not faulty but a love rooted in truth. It is a love rooted in God.
- Read Genesis 3:15–4:26. How does this passage help you see the divide between the children of God and the children of the devil?
- What does 1 John 3:16-18 shows us about how the Bible defines love? What effect does this have on how we view the importance of the local church in the Christian life?