“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” – 1 John 3:18-19
The first fruit of the Spirit that Paul taught the churches in Galatia is love. There is much we can say about the importance of love. God teaches us much in Scripture about it, doesn’t He? If a new believer were to ask you to help them grow in their understanding of love, what passages would you walk them through? You may take them to 1 Corinthians 13 (the “Love Chapter”) first. Maybe then to 1 John 4:19- We love Him because He first loved us. You might move on to a verse in the context of our focus text “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16) What passages would you take them to next?
Though you could find many good ones to walk through, you would do well to camp out for a while in 1 John. Among the many rich things the Apostle John teaches us about love here, there is an aspect of love that maybe we don’t think of as often. This aspect is a great comfort to us.
John does a wonderful job in helping God’s people deal with doubt, particularly doubt regarding the assurance of salvation. He does so in many ways, one of which is emphasizing the importance of the presence and fruit of love in the heart and life of the believer. John teaches us that a mark of a true Christian is our love for the brethren. Such agape (self-sacrificial) love is evidence of the work of the Spirit in us and our belonging to God. Notice the point that he drives home in verses 18-19. We must not only talk about loving one another, but true love is seen. Love in action, putting hands and feet to our words, in deed and truth. In other words, don’t just tell your brothers and sisters that you love them, but show them you love them.
Matthew Henry says it well- “Here is the condescension, the miracle, the mystery of divine love, that God would redeem the church with his own blood! Surely we should love those whom God hath loved, and so loved; and we shall certainly do so if we have any love for God.”
Be comforted and encouraged today, knowing that your love for the brethren confirms that you are in the truth and assures your heart before God. As you put love for your brothers and sisters in action this week, let me encourage you to be well rounded. Don’t only seek to show love when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard, when you need to press through the pain of conflict, where relationships need restoration.
Consider this- If things are in the way of our fellowship, will such love spring into action? Ask yourself- If you aren’t willing to talk to someone you call “brother” because of issues between you, what makes you think you would be willing to lay down your life for him? If you’ve written off your sister and feel fine talking to others about her behind her back, what makes you think you would be willing to lay down your life for her? If we truly have the love of Christ in us, we must have a dedication to sacrificial love. One of the main ways we need to keep that love in check, to keep it pure, is to daily prayerfully assess and purposely remove any roadblocks in our hearts and fellowship that would hinder it. Sometimes, this may mean that we are on the phone or going to visit a brother or sister frequently until things are resolved. Whatever it takes, we are called to lay down our lives for them- let’s make sure our hearts are in the right place to do that and our feet are ready to move!