Scripture: 1 John 3:11-24
Observation: John again reminds us of the importance of loving each other and claims that a life without love is simply dead. He encourages us not just to say we love others but rather to show it through our actions. When we truly love others, we obey God’s commands and deepen our relationship with him.
Application: As a faithful Catholic school student, we learned all about the importance of Lent (the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday) and giving up something as a way to acknowledge all that Jesus had given up for us. When I was nine or ten, I decided I was going to participate in a big, bold sacrificial way – I would give up chocolate. (I know, I know; that was a pretty small “sacrifice” but as a ten year old, going forty days without chocolate – including candy, ice cream, cake – seemed like Mission Impossible.)
It turns out it was Mission Impossible. I didn’t even make it a day. (Insert 1,000 monkey-covering-his-eyes-emojis here.) On the very first day of Lent, I accidentally ate chocolate pudding after school, and after realizing my grave error, I decided to just give up – I had already messed up so there was no use trying to spend the next 39 days chocolate-free. (Apparently, I was legalistic before I even knew how to spell “legalistic.”)
Truthfully, I didn’t understand sacrifice at age ten…and if I’m honest, I’m not sure I still completely understand it 15+ years later. I want to, but there are so many times that my “sacrifices” aren’t from a place of pure-hearted devotion to God. All too often, I sacrifice because I feel guilty. I sacrifice because someone tells me it’s important to do. I sacrifice out of obligation.
When we sacrifice out of guilt or obligation, we have it all wrong.
When I read these words from John, I read a whole passage about sacrifice – the real kind of sacrifice – the kind that flows from our heart and deep devotion to the one who created us.
And what is more sacrificial than real love?
We shouldn’t love because we’re supposed to – we should love lavishly out of the overflow of what God is doing in our hearts and our lives. Read again how John puts it in verse 16:
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us so we ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
We aren’t called to love others because we feel guilty when we don’t. We aren’t called to love others out of obligation. We aren’t called to love others because our parents, Sunday school teachers, or pastors told us to. We love others – willingly, sacrificially, to the point we’d give up our lives for them – because of who Jesus is and what we he did for us.
We can love out of obligation or we can love out of an overflow of God’s love for us – so why are you loving others right now?
We can’t do this love thing on our own. We’re not going to muster up enough goodness or kindness or patience to love others well out of our own human spirit. It’s only when we rely on the Holy Spirit that we’re filled with the power to love selflessly and sacrificially.
“And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.” (verse 24)
We already have everything we need to love – to love our spouses when they annoy us, our best friends when they speak truth we’d rather not hear, our bosses when they treat us unfairly, our children when they frustrate us, ourselves when we fail. We have everything we need. We simply need to be willing to sacrifice – our own desires, comfort, ideal scenarios – and let the Holy Spirit lead our loving lives.
Prayer: God, help me love out of overflow rather than obligation. I pray your Spirit fills me and that I’m able to love because of who you are rather than who I am. Amen.
- John says that anyone who hates another believer is actually a “murderer” at heart. (verse 15) Reflect on those harsh words today. Is there anyone you hate? Feel bitter towards? Are unable to forgive? Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with love for that person.
- Do your actions show that you love others? (verse 18)