Monday, April 19

Reader: “We should love one another.”

Response: “Yes, we should love one another.”

Scripture: I John 3:10-16   

So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.

This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Reader: “The word of the Lord.”

Response: “Thanks be to God.”

Some thoughts:    

Chances are good that this epistle was written toward the end of the Apostle John’s life. These words come from someone who knew, ate with, touched, conversed, travelled with, talked with the risen Christ and watched him ascend to heaven. In this letter, John is admonishing Christians to live out their faith daily in loving brothers and sisters in Christ. Faith should show up in actions. 

One additional note. In our current days of uncertainty, distrust and animosity in our world, there are some helpful words here for those who profess Christ. How do we relate to those who think differently? How do we manage anger? How do Christians interact with other Christians with whom they differ? John was dealing with the very same challenges.

It is important to realize that John writes in black and white. There are no shadows of in between. That is why it is most important to understand what the Scripture is saying. The opening of this section is a perfect example. “Children of God and children of the devil.” See what I mean? Nothing in between! What does he mean by “Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God?” We have to understand the “live righteously” part. Does that mean one who does not sin?

“To live righteously” does not mean one will no longer sin, but that one lives in a right relationship to God, a life of repentance and humility. In John’s day, there was false teaching that the spiritual and physical were completely separate (Gnostics) and that whatever happened with the physical body had no bearing on the spiritual. Of course this led to all kinds of debauchery.

John then moves to the concrete example of Cain and Abel in further explaining righteousness and its roots. As you know, Cain was all about Cain. The fact that the offering he decided to give to God was not accepted by God made him very angry.The fact that his brother had made an offering according to God’s design which was accepted, added fuel to his fire. Before he killed his brother, God said to Cain, you will be accepted “if you do what is right,” in other words, if you act righteously (Gen.4:7). Further, “if you refuse, sin is at the door.” Cain did not repent and killed his brother. The proper sacrifice to God meant acceptance from God. The whole point was relationship and communion with God. 

In our passage, the Scripture is talking about what’s in our heart and what’s at the root of action. Cain’s action of killing his brother led to observable bloodshed. But bloodshed by hatred from the heart is seen by God who judges accordingly. The Word of God speaks of “roots of bitterness.” Growing up on the farm there would be times when we had to take down a tree only to see shoots sprout from the stump and continue to grow. The roots were not dead. In order to kill the roots, we drilled holes in the stump, poured diesel fuel in the holes, let it soak in and then burned the stump, killing the roots. We cannot simply cut down the tree of hatred, we need to kill its roots of bitterness.

God’s words via John are simple, “Anyone who hates another brother or sister [in Christ] is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” A life-style of committing murder is not reflective of the children of God. Loving brothers and sisters is reflective of being a child of God. The perfect model of how to live toward our fellow Christians is given to us in Jesus Christ who sacrificially gave his life for us. I think we can do better in loving each other. The world is watching . . . so is the Savior.

Music: “If Ye Love Me”    Tenebrae

Prayer:    (Two prayers today!)

O blessed Lord, who hast commanded us to love one another, grant us grace that having received thine undeserved bounty, we may love everyone in thee and for thee. We implore thy clemency for all; but especially for the friends whom thy love has given to us. Love thou them, O thou fountain of love, and make them to love thee with all their heart, that they may will, and speak and do those things only which are pleasing to thee.   ―St. Anselm, 1033-1109, Oxford Book of Prayer, p.113

Help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go―let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example―by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you.             ―John Henry Newman, 1801-1890, Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.70