1 John 3:11-18
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
God says, “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (1 John 3:11) Well, this is going to be the easiest sermon ever! I mean, it’s all about love. Peace, and joy, and happiness. We get to talk all about how we are content with each other. Sounds like a sermon that is all Gospel and no Law. I didn’t think we would ever get to have one of those. It’s a good thing that we all love each other. That we not only know how to care about each other, but that we show it all of the time. I guess we don’t have anything else to say. Well. Wait. I have a confession for you. I maybe, sometimes, on a semi regular basis have a hard time living a life filled with love. Sometimes I’m selfish with my time and my abilities and my stuff. Sometimes I get angry easily. Sometimes I get grumpy and don’t show love to other people. Whew. It’s good to get that out. Especially admitting it to you, my fellow brothers and sisters. To be honest, it’s a bit intimidating knowing how perfectly you show love all of the time. Unless of course you maybe, possibly you struggle with the same problem. Well, I guess it’s good thing that we get to listen to what God has to tell us about love.
After all, it doesn’t come naturally to us. Our default is not to be loving and considerate. But greed, selfishness, and cruelty are just our most natural reactions. Don’t believe me? Why were people throwing punches over toilet paper in the aisles of Walmart? Why were people mobbing for the last gallons of water? Why do people have to mock and belittle others to feel like they won a meaningless debate? And why do people get so worked up that they get angry and hurl insults and threats at their kid’s sport games? Try and tell me that people are by nature loving and kind and forgiving. No the world is full of people filled to the brim with wrath and anger and hatred. And that world turns it’s dislike on us. Because we’re different. It’s not that we are perfect. No. Far from it. But we are strange. Christians have this message that is the exact opposite of what the world tries to teach. We’re told that we have this great gift, something we didn’t have to earn or fight for. We didn’t have to earn it. This promise of eternal life with our God. And that promise gives us a peace that the world doesn’t understand. With words and violence the world despises you because you have something they don’t have. “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other.” (1 John 3:13-14a) I remember one time I was talking to a friend of a friend. They found out I was a pastor and so they wanted to show me how wicked Christianity is. After a number of insults they decided to accuse Christianity of being the cause for more deaths than any other cause in history. I could have very easily corrected him with a few names: Mao, Vladimir Lenin, Stalin, Hitler. None of them were Christian or even religious but it didn’t stop each of them from wiping out tens of millions of people. But I decided that it wasn’t worth arguing. Instead I pointed him to what God really says in the Bible. But he didn’t want to hear anything about that at all. Instead he decided to use some more colorful language and names on me. He wasn’t the first and certainly not the last person to hate me because I’m a believer. And I’m sure you have many of your own stories. There is no question that the world is filled with hate towards God. And we shouldn’t be surprised.
But what is surprising is how we allow the world to change the way we think and act. We have been called out of the world and rescued from death. And yet it’s often hard to see any change in us at all. We hear the angry words thrown at us and then we decide that we have to hit back. With our own cruel words, our own selfishness, our own sin. “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.” (1 John 3:12a) “What are you talking about Pastor? I haven’t ever murdered my brother, or anyone else for that matter!” Maybe you haven’t physically killed anyone, but haven’t you shown that the evil one is in you? Haven’t we used our words to hurt other people? Haven’t we been jealous and selfish and arrogant? Does that sound like what God has called us for? Or is it more like what the world is. Sinners. It’s who you are. You who claim to know God. It’s who I am. I who know the love and mercy of my Savior. What is wrong with us? “Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3:14b)
So. Are we like Cain? We were. But not anymore, because unlike Cain our Brother has rescued us: “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 2:11) Jesus didn’t complain about being our “keeper”. He gladly came to rescue us. With every agonizing moment, every cry, every drop of blood, Jesus held on to save you and to wash away your sins. Changed us from sinners to perfect in his sight.
Every time you have used your words to lash out at someone, every time you made fun of someone with cruel insults. You are forgiven. For every time you let your selfishness get in the way of loving someone else, Christ bled in your place. The evil one who wants to be seen in your words and actions? He no longer has any power over you. Because your sins, all of them, have been taken up by our selfless Brother. He has loved you. Perfectly. Endlessly.
And that’s what love is. It’s not about getting what I want. It’s not about proving that I’m right and that you’re wrong. It’s not about greed or arrogance or making fun of others. No. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16) Our Lord, our Brother, our Savior kept us from harm. By rescuing us from our sins he has shown us what the highest extent of love looks like. It’s seeing others in need and wanting to help them. It’s wanting to use everything we have and are to comfort others. And only through the faith worked in our hearts can we understand true love. “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (1 John 3:11)
Without faith, this passage is just a rule. It’s a burden. But we have faith, this glorious knowledge of the truth of Jesus. And because of faith, the message “We should love one another” is not a burden, it’s freedom. Freedom because we want to respond to God’s love. We want to serve him. And with our Sermon text for today we see exactly how God wants us to serve: to go to our brothers and sisters in Christ and showing them love. But showing love is more than just saying the words. We have been called to use everything that we have and are to show love. Maybe it’s as simple as listening to someone who desperately needs to talk to someone. I’m sure you know people in your life who just want the chance to talk with someone. Give them a call and encourage them during these tough times of loneliness. Or
maybe someone in your neighborhood is having a hard time keeping up with yardwork. Age or health issues are getting in their way. Show love by serving them. When you see that someone is in need remember the one who did not hold back but lovingly gave up everything for us.
Do you have money, or clothes, or food that they can use? Let’s reach out to them. Help them in their struggles. Unburden them in their hardships. What gifts do you have that you can use to serve others? Let’s love. Not just with words, but also with actions. We have been called free from the burden of hate and sin and are now free to share the love of our Savior. So, through the faith worked in our hearts show the Savior who loves you. “We should love one another. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with
actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:11, 18)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. Amen.