The message John says we should know he continues to press into his readers today, showing them that its meaning and execution is found in Christ:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.1 John 3:16-18 CSB
This is the clearest example of the vertical affecting the horizontal. Most of us have seen it illustrated by the drawing of a cross. The vertical bar is the relationship between God and man, while the horizontal is the relationship between man and his fellow human beings. The way we do anything in this life, know anything in this life is by our rooting in Christ, for he is the center of the cross. He’s the one who allows us to have that vertical relationship in the first place.
How was it established? By the love that led to his sacrificial death on the cross for our sins.
The New International Version uses the phrase: “This is how we know what love is.” In other words: This is love—pure love, saving love. Christ died for us. Not forced into it, but willingly gave his life. Even in those last moments on the cross, God’s Word says he “yielded up his spirit.” He chose the moment, he gave it up, turning himself over to death that we might live. There is no greater love.
But John doesn’t stop there. As his followers, we must model that same love.
No, we’re not capable of dying to save others from their sins. That was the work of Christ alone. Our sacrificial love for our brother and sister in Christ is what God uses to draw others to Christ through us. Just the fact that I’m willing to help my brother or come alongside my sister is enough to make the world stop and take notice. Why? Because it’s not normal.
Such love is also not possible without the work of the Spirit of Christ in us. Paul wrote:
For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:7-8
It’s in that act of undeserving love, that God’s love is seen in us. But woe to us, when we withhold that love from our brother or sister.
A closed heart is a sign of faithlessness.
How can God’s love be in us, if we are not generously loving our fellow believers? John doesn’t want Christ-followers to be people who just talk the talk, but walk the walk.
How do your deeds match the love God has instilled in you through his grace and by his Spirit? Are you quenching the love the Spirit wants to show through you to others? Is pride in the way? Does it keep you from denying self in lovingly meeting a brother or sister’s need?
Ask God to help you get out of the way so he can have his way in and through you to his glory.
Grace and Peace