When people really get into football season, they can sometimes go to outrageous lengths to display their hope and faith in a team. The things they wear, the chants they chant, almost everything they project is a display of their loyalty. This Sunday we’ll be reading 1 John 3:11-24, and we’ll be considering how Jesus gave his followers some specific instructions about how we would display our loyalty and faith in him….through our love for people.
As John begins, he takes us back to basics. The first command the churches he planted heard was the one that Jesus gave in John’s gospel, that his disciples should love one another. Then he goes back further – to the creation story, where Cain murdered his brother Abel over religious rivalry. He equates Cain with the broken world’s system of life, and he contrasts it with Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf. The love we are called to express displays the difference between Christ and the world’s systems. What are some of the contrasts that come into your mind as you consider Cain’s path and Christ’s path?
John uses Jesus’ sacrificial death to describe the shape of love. This kind of love was not just sentiment – it had practical impact on the object of love. Who benefits from Christ laying down his life? What is displayed in that kind of love? How does John picture our love for each other taking shape in our community? In what ways does this challenge you about your purpose in the church?
John even gets into the dynamic of our relationship with God. We can look at a lofty calling to love sacrificially and start to feel a little queasy about the many times we’ve failed to do that – we can start to condemn ourselves for how poorly we seem to be able to suppress our egos and put others first. But even there, John reminds us that “God is greater than our hearts and knows everything” – that is, he’s bigger than our failures and is all about drawing what’s best out of us, not condemning us. To know that we’re accepted in his love inspires confidence, which inspires us to love God in return, which results in expressing that love to others. There is a wonderful rhythm and flow to this that mere religion is oblivious to.
John summarizes the commandment in v23. What are the two words he uses to epitomize God’s intent for us? What do they display about our relationship with God? This will be a challenging but encouraging passage to explore!
The last Surf N Grill of the season is this Sunday – hope you can make out to hang with the fam and support those making a public declaration of following Christ (getting baptized…I know, I’m too verbose).