Love. It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot, isn’t it? “I love coffee.” “I love the beach.” “I love chocolate.” It’s a word that makes you feel all warm inside. Love sounds wonderful, attainable, desirable. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who thinks that love isn’t a good thing. I mean, how can you NOT love love? Love is cute babies and puppies, rainbows and hearts, right?
Nobody really has an issue with “love”. Inherently, we all know that love is the best way to live.
In 1 John 3:11, Jesus’ closest disciple, John, says this about love:
In other words John is saying, “I know you guys have heard this before, but let me tell you again. You really need to love each other.”
And then in what would appear to be an abrupt changing of the subject, John begins to describe a conflict between two brothers (Cain and Abel in Genesis 4) where the strife grew so intense that one brother actually killed the other brother!
Why would John – after one short sentence talking about love – introduce this story from Genesis about murder? Surely John could have expounded on the concept of love, warm feelings and happy emotions? Did he have to go so dark, so quickly? Why does he have to get so intense. What a party pooper.
Or perhaps, the two concepts are inseparably linked? Is it possible for us to truly and genuinely love someone without considering the condition and health of our own heart first?
True love requires that we deal with our heart. Cain allowed his jealousy and insecurity towards his brother to grow untended in his heart. He gave the enemy access permitting anger and unforgiveness to fester deep in his heart.
While anger, jealousy and unforgiveness most of the time do not end in the physical act of murder, John is linking the condition of our heart directly to our ability to truly, selflessly, demonstrate Christlike love to others.
If we fail to keep our hearts clean, love – as wonderful as it is conceptually – is impossible for us to genuinely demonstrate and live out.
In these few verses, John reminds us…
- We should love. It’s the right, noble and godly thing to do. It’s how God created us to live and it’s how we show His love to the world.
John gently points out by way of illustration…
- Love is easier said than lived. (1 John 3:12)
John urged the people, “Don’t be like Cain.” It didn’t end well for him and it won’t end well for you either. Living with anger, jealousy and unforgiviness will make you miserable and it’s dishonorable to God. Work with all your might to keep your heart clean.
- Even when your co-worker gets the job promotion that you should have received.
- Even when your friend’s marriage is thriving, but yours is struggling and barely holding on.
- Even when your neighbors remodel their house and your house is dated and falling apart.
- Even when your kids tell you that their friends are going on a Disney cruise for their summer vacation, but you don’t have the budget for a vacation this year.
Keep your heart clean of jealousy, anger and bitterness. Don’t give the evil one access to your heart.
John also warns them…
- Don’t be surprised when other people hate you. (1 John 3:13-15)
You may strive for love. You may work really hard to do the right thing and keep your heart clean. But many people won’t. While they know love is a good thing, while they agree that it is a healthy way to live, when faced with offense, insecurity and jealousy, many people won’t choose the way of love.
And then John finishes this short thought by showing us the best example of love in bodily form – Jesus.
- Jesus’ love serves and gives regardless of whether or not love is extended towards you. (1 John 3:16)
The love that Jesus modeled for us expressed love at the expense of selfish desires, feelings and comfort. It was love that was readily willing to sacrifice to the point of death.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16
That, my friend, is real love.