Love Your Siblings

So Daniel and I discovered last week that there is a lot to unpack in 1 John 3. I also think it’s really neat to see what each of us gets out of it, both while we are sitting there talking, and in what we end up writing about. If you haven’t already been following along with us, I’ll stick some links at the bottom if you want to go back and find both of our takes on the previous two chapters. But for now, let’s dig into chapter 3!

The running theme throughout is living as God’s children and loving one another. Right off the bat, John is warning us about the world not getting it. He says in v. 1, “The people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him.” Back in John 1:11, he said, “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.” Continuing in verse 2, we are told we will be like Him, “we will be comparable to Him because we will see Him as He is.” We will see Him truly and completely, and be made complete in Him.

Verse 4 talks about those who sin are breaking God’s law, but which law is he talking about? McKnight’s Second Testament uses the phrase “Covenant-Code breaking”. Since we are no longer under the Old Covenant made to the ancient Hebrews, this must mean a New Covenant. Verse 23 tells us that the order He has given to us is to believe in Christ and to love one another. If you look at sin, all of it goes back to one of those. The sins we commit against ourselves, the ones we think we can’t be forgiven of or that we can’t help, go against belief in Him and who He says He is. If we truly believe He is the Christ, the Son of God, then we believe He can forgive us of anything, and also that He can work on us and through us to accomplish His purpose and to help us be who He wants us to be. Any sin we commit against our neighbor comes from not having love for him like Christ commanded. In Matthew 24:12 we read, “Because Covenant-breaking will be abounding, the love of many will become cold.” We sin because we don’t love. If we have the traits of love (patience, kindness, graciousness, humility, and all those other traits listed in 1 Corinthians 13), the things we do will reflect that love and acts committed in Christ-like agape love are not going to be sinful.

The next few verses speak of the Accuser and being deceived. In Matthew 24:4, Jesus warns His disciples that deceivers will be coming. John says, “They’re heee-ere!” In verse 8, he says that the Accuser has been sinning from the beginning. In John’s gospel in chapter 8, verse 44 tells us that he was a murderer from the beginning and that lying is consistent with his character. Back to 1 John, he is warning of the Anti-Christ (liar/deceiver) and of hating your brother (murderer, as we will be reminded a few verses down). He says that the children of God and the children of the Accuser will both be made apparent by whether they do righteousness and show love.

The commandment that we love one another has been around from the beginning, as we are told in 3:11. Cain killed his brother because he hated him. He was jealous. He didn’t love his brother like God wanted him to. So Cain’s sin was sibling-hating which resulted in human-killing, in McKnight’s words. Because as we learned in v. 4, sin comes from Covenant breaking – committing sin against our brother is a result of a lack of love. John tells us that if we hate our brother, we are murderers at heart. If you don’t have love in your heart (because hate is just the absence of love, remember?), something else is going to fill that hole – jealousy, resentment, anger.

He even goes so far as to tell us that if we love our siblings, not only will we treat them with love, we will be willing to place them above ourselves, just as Jesus did. We can literally give up our lives, but we can also figuratively give up our lives for others in putting them first, their needs above ours. Jesus tells us there is nothing greater than to love your friend enough to lay down your life for them (John 15:12-13). Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:21 that we are to do good just as Jesus did, even if/when it involves suffering. We should have empathy for others (If you need to be reminded how, check out Matthew 25 starting in verse 31).

I absolutely love verse 18: “Children, don’t love in word or tongue but in work and truth.” Our love will be made apparent by our works, not our words. We can say “I love you” all day long, but if we aren’t showing it, do we really mean it? Our actions show that we are in the Truth. We have confidence as we come before God because we know our love-rooted actions are pleasing to Him.

As we mentioned above, God’s commandment for us is to “trust in the name of Jesus and to love one another.” That’s what it all comes down to. “The one who observes His orders remains in Him, and He in the person. In this we know that He remains in us: from the Spirit whom He gave to us.” Just like back in 2:27, we are reminded that His Spirit remains in us, and will teach us truth and give us confidence.

Links to all of mine and Daniel’s articles on 1 John can be found here.

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