Sunday, December 16

Loving others, whether they are Christ followers or not

I have been reading in 1st, 2nd and 3rd John. When was the last time you heard of a sermon or study coming from 3rd John? In fact, it’s been awhile since I’ve read them. What I was really struck by this time was the unity of the message through the three books. One of the two big themes that is repeated throughout all three books is love.

Obviously, one of the key ideas is that we should love everyone. We can see that in 1st John 4:7-8. It says “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love – so you can’t know him if you don’t know love.” John goes on to say “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s.” (1st John 4:17). We are supposed to love everyone, not just those who love us. Jesus said that even “run-of-the-mill sinners” love those who love them. (Luke 6:31-34).

What really struck me in the John’s three letters, however, was the focus on loving our fellow followers of Christ. John tells us that “[t]his is how we’ve come to understand and experience love. Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.” (1st John 3:16-17). In another letter, John says “Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.” (3rd John 5). He even calls out a particular member of the church for violating this principle. He says “As if that weren’t bad enough, he not only refuses hospitality to traveling Christians but tries to stop others from welcoming them. Worse yet, instead of inviting them in he throws them out.” (3rd John 10). Followers of Christ often have the unfortunate habit of finding faults with other Christians. It’s like we are waiting for somebody to do something wrong so that we can jump on them. And we tend to divide Christians into groups, so that there is an “us” and a “them,” so that we can talk about what part of “them” we don’t like. When we do these kinds of things, we really aren’t showing love and hospitality to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are making the God’s love disappear.

When we follow Christ, love should be paramount. We should be showing God’s love to everyone, both unbelievers and followers of Christ, in everything we do.

No comments: