Abide in Love- 1 John 3:11-24
What has been the most fun part of today for every? My favorite part was getting to be here with my wife (give a wink). Seriously though, this has been a super fun week. I feel like I have been able to get to know a lot of you, and I will remember this week for a long time to come. This week will be put into the memory bank of special weeks.
This memory bank of special memories keeps getting larger and larger over the years. Not to get all old on you, but it is pretty crazy to think about all the fun things over the past 25 years of my life. I remember how much I loved getting to play with my brothers when I was really young. That feeling of brotherly love is something I cannot explain. I also remember the feeling of being loved by a Sunday School teacher when I was in second and third grade. She said she saw something special in me and poured out a lot of love on me. I also remember getting to go to Nicaragua when I was in 8th grade and getting to meet some fantastic people, but not only that, but to get to spend time with my basketball coach. But I have two memories in my memory bank that are memories of love, but they are also a little sad. But sometimes in the moments of sadness it is the acts of love that stick with you the most.
When I was about 10 or 11 years old all the men in my extended family went on a backpacking trip on an island in the middle of Lake Superior, which is a 2-5 hour boat ride depending on the weather. So we hiked around the island for a week and then came back to the upper peninsula of Michigan, where we would then drive back around 8 hours to get home. Well, when we got into the harbor we all went to the van as quickly as possible. When I got to the van some people asked where a couple of the cousins were, and I figured they were in the gift shop, so I got out of the van and went to the gift shop. I did not see them there so I went back to the van. But… the van wasn’t in the spot where it had been parked. I walked a few feet and looked down the row of cars, trucks, and vans and saw the back of my family’s 15 passenger van pulling away. They left me! So I started running after the van, which at that point was less than a football field away. It started raining and I kept watching the van pull further and further away… and pull around a corner, then onto the highway, and then out of sight. I was left—alone and wet in the upper peninsula of Michigan. So, thinking I knew where there were all going to go, I stood next to the road and stuck out my thumb. I was going to hitch hike and catch up to them. And right as a red suburban pulled up and opened a side door to let me in I heard a voice yelling “Ben!!! Don’t get in!” that voice came from the other side of the suburban and it was my dad! My oldest brother noticed that I wasn’t there in the van! It was easy for me to get left, but my brother had my back and could tell that my familiar voice was not in the van. I will never forget that day, but not because of being forgotten, but because of the love and protection I felt because my oldest brother remembered me and saved me in my greatest moment of need.
The next moment of need came a few years later when my dad did not have a job between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He was a computer engineer at that time, but the job situation in Michigan was so bad that a man his age with his qualification could not get a job at any place. Companies would not hire him because they did not want to pay for a man of his experience. My parents were worried about buying presents for us, and worried that we would not have a nice Christmas meal. But a few days before Christmas, while it was snowing, someone drove up our driveway and dropped off some bags of groceries, including a turkey, and in one of those bags was a card. In that card was a couple hundred dollars. We had not asked these people for money or groceries, but they were family friends and they knew our situation so they decided to provide for us in our moment of need. And what I remember most about that winter is not that we were poor or that my dad was looking for a job, but that a family loved us enough that they would give up a few hundred dollars and give us food and money for presents. Love is a powerful act.
Love is also supposed to be a distinguishing characteristic of a Christian. Turn to 1 John 3:11-24 with me.
God has always told people that they are to live in love with one another. When God made Adam and Eve he brought them together to live in a relationship of love. When God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt he commanded them to live together in love and to be lights of love to other nations. When Jesus walked the earth he was asked what the greatest commandment of God was, and he answered giving the two greatest commandments of God—Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. In his final weeks on earth Jesus told his disciples that people would know and recognize followers of Jesus by how they love one another. And here in 1 John we are reminded that this is the message that has always been taught: love one another.
But, do people always love one another? How many of you ever get into a fight or an argument with someone? How many of you have told a lie about someone, or gossiped, or stolen something from someone? Sometimes we say, “well, they deserved it!” but, as Christians, we should know better. We know that acting in anger is not acceptable. Anger is the opposite of love, and as Christians we are to be loving.
This passage talks about Cain murdering his brother. Obviously murdering your brother is the opposite of love, right!? But let’s pause a second there. How many of you know the story of Cain and Able? Ok, what happened? Yes, good job. Let’s read that passage together to see exactly what happened.
Read Genesis 4:1-16
Why did Cain kill his brother? Because he was jealous that his brother was good! He did not have a reason to do it. See, we have to realize that when we put ourselves over other people and are jealous of them, act angrily, gossip about them, or just plain hate them—which means to wish that something bad would happen to them, then that is a big problem.
Why is it a big problem, John says “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brother—or other Christians and other people—Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Wait, Ben, you are telling me that how I act towards someone shows if I am a Christian or not? Not only that, but that how I THINK!! about someone matters as well!?!?
Yes. But remember this, your actions don’t save, nor do they make you unsaved. Your actions show if you are actually a Christ follower or not. Remember how the first day I talked about you can tell that a sequoia is a live or not by if it keeps growing thicker and taller? You can tell if a person has the life of Jesus flowing through them by how they act as well.
It goes on to say that how we treat others who have needs shows if we are Christ followers or not as well. See, God is a giver. As followers of God, the one who gave his only son in order to save the world, we are to demonstrate that same sacrificial love to all people. In this passage the word “brother” specifically means another Christ follower and member of your church, but we also know from what Jesus says in the book of Luke that all people are to be treated as neighbors and to be loved by us.
Trust me, I know that this is pretty crazy to think about giving money to people to others. When Nate, Lindsay, and I were students at Moody Bible Institute we were in the middle of Chicago which is a big city with lots of people who are poor and homeless. We had to ask ourselves every day what it meant to demonstrate God’s sacrificial love to the people that we saw whenever we went out to buy groceries, go to the park, or go to church. It is not an easy question to answer, and we know that we cannot solve everyone’s problems, but we are called to love others more than our money, clothes, and possessions.
But you might be wondering, how do I know if I am loving others as much as I am supposed to be? Well, asking that question is a good sign. John finishes this passage by saying that our own heart will either say “you love yourself and your own possessions more than God and others,” or “you love God and others more than your own self.”
Friends, we have to be abiding in God and abiding in love. Our lives need to be about love. And when we want to know about whether or not we are loving properly, pray. Ask God. Ask him who you need to love more. Ask him if you need to apologize to someone. Ask him if you love your possessions and money more than you love others. This passage says that God will answer those honest questions.
Bow your heads, let’s pray.