1 John 3:11-15
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
In 20 years of pastoral ministry, serving three churches in three regions of the U.S., I have seen beautiful things within the fellowship of believers, and I have seen ugly things. I have seen people open their homes and their hearts to brothers and sisters in need. I have seen the faithful gather for prayer in hospital rooms, singing a saint into heaven. I have seen inspiring acts of mercy, generosity, forgiveness and hospitality. Then again, I have seen arguments, bitterness, grudges, gossip, selfishness and anger among people in the church. I have seen love, and I have seen hate. Sadly, those who profess faith in Jesus sometimes act just like those outside the church, those who don’t know any better because they don’t yet know the Savior and haven’t taken God’s word into their hearts.
John draws a sharp line in the sand with these words, marking off those who love others from those whose actions he equates, strikingly, with murder. These words are addressed to people in the church. It would be easy for us to dismiss this passage as applying only to unbelievers, to faithless, disobedient, bad people, but John was aware, as we should be, that any of us can fall into behaviors or attitudes that hurt brothers and sisters within the church. We don’t always get it right, and the Spirit warns us, through John’s words, that failing to love one another brings great shame on the church and causes great damage to those we hurt. Just as the harsh words of a parent sting more than those of a stranger, so too the selfish, angry or abusive actions of a fellow believer cut deeply into our hearts. By contrast, the love we share with one another can bring healing, hope, encouragement and joy.
How can you show love to a sister or brother in faith? What needs can you meet or what kindness can you show to someone in your church family? This past year has seen much suffering, anxiety and need, which means opportunities to show love are plentiful, from sending encouraging notes to caring for physical or financial needs. How we love shows who we are, and even more, shows to whom we belong. We love one another because Jesus first loved us.
Gracious Father, You show me unending love through Jesus Christ. Teach me to love as You do. Use me to care for others, especially those in need within Your church. I ask this for Your glory and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian