1 John: Christianity in Black & White, Part VIII :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

1 John 3:10-15: The Imperative of Love

“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest. Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:10-15).

John has described two different types of people. The first is the one who sins continually and therefore is of the devil, and the second is the one who is born of God and does not continually practice sin. There is no room for neutrality nor is there any semblance of a third option in life. Either you belong to God or to the devil.

Humanity is not independent of the plans or will of God, and it is He who sovereignly knows the true from the false. We need to go back and read Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-20). The thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel presents a series of parables that emphasize the certainty of judgment upon humanity and the eternal destiny of those who are on the wide and narrow roads of life.

The sad fact is that, out of the billions of people who have been born and have made their respective marks upon the path of history, the Scriptures specifically tell us that not everyone is destined for eternal life with the LORD at the end of days, but will face hell and death for all time when they are brought before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15; Matthew 25:41-46).

The few who embrace the redemption and salvation found only in Jesus Christ as the final payment for their sins will be judged by Him for what they did and didn’t do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 3:10-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:31-40). Many will rejoice at their rewards, and some will end up smelling like smoke, but are there in spite of it all.

Those of us who have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ and are believing in and on Him for eternal peace, guidance, counsel, and direction need to keep sharp spiritually and be ready to obey Him when impressed to perform an action or say something to someone, especially when it concerns the condition of the soul and where that person will end up eternally. When Jesus saved you, He expected you to imitate Him in conduct, manner, wisdom, and to forgo the temptations to criticize someone or to have a bad attitude towards, not just a particular person for their respective behavior that is contrary to the demands of the gospel, but also towards a fellow believer.

If you remember, in the gospels, Jesus called John and his brother James, “Sons of Thunder” for their attitudes towards people who didn’t march in lock-step with what they believed was a life dedicated to God, which we see demonstrated when they asked the Lord to call down fire from heaven and burn up a Samaritan village that had rejected the gospel message (Luke 9:54).

We see that John had much to learn while with Jesus. He saw the LORD do the following:

  • demonstrate compassion towards a leper, considered ceremonially unclean and an outcast from society, by healing him, and by healing a servant in the house of a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:1-13).
  • He witnessed the silence and then sympathy of the Lord when a Phoenician’s daughter was freed from demonic possession (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30),
  • the healing of a woman with perpetual menstruation and unclean as a result (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:40-56),
  • healing on a Sabbath, which was a violation of the traditions and rituals followed by the Pharisees (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6: 6-11),
  • and the most compelling idea to grasp, that of Jesus declaring Himself to be the Savior of His people (Psalm 72:13; Luke 2:11, 19:10; John 3:17; Acts 4:12, 5:31, 13:23; Romans 8:3; 1 Timothy 1:15; 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 7:25, 28; 1 John 4:14; 1 Peter 3:18; Galatians 1:4; Isaiah 52:13–53:12).

If you notice, everything that Jesus taught to His disciples was demonstrated by His actions and words. He was not a mere reciter of rabbinic interpretation and traditions like the other teachers and religious officials, but taught with authority and demonstrated what the Pharisees and other ranking Temple officials were sorely lacking, and that was love for the people. This is  not a kind of “love” based on mere feeling or emotion that adapts to the situation, but the love of God that takes a person as they are and transforms them into a person of worth and purpose, at peace with God and now possessing the ability to obey Him and to change for the better.

God’s love forgives and renews often by humble grace and quiet actions that change a person’s attitude from contempt to surrendering themselves to the love that they may have sought in other areas of life but did not find satisfactory and lasting. It was love for the people regardless of status or rank that drew many Roman slaves and officials as well as a large number of Jews to the person and work of Christ.

John learned this, and his personality underwent a transformation over the years, whereby he was known as “the apostle of love” and was held in high regard by the next generation of believers who were reading the letters and teachings of those apostles who had already gone home to be with the LORD, often as a martyr.

John’s days were coming to a conclusion, and he wanted his readers to get into their lives and mindsets that love for the brethren was of importance, not just as a sign of fellowship, but of the need to be as one when troubles developed, either from the authorities from Rome or the persuasive words of the false teachers.

In the verses we are going to examine, the apostle writes that brotherly love distinguishes the true children of God. There are differences presented between the believers and those who continue to do evil. In the Christian, love is presented by their righteousness and genuine love for one another and for the people, while those who follow the evil one demonstrate no such trait. They can play a game of “lip service,” but that is soon uncovered by their actions and attitudes.

Love is not just an emotional whim of the romantic heart, but is a real, demonstrable part of the life of a child of God through Christ. Read His words from John 13:34-35:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Now, do we do this as a regular part of our walk with the LORD?

From what I see in the church today and what I saw as a young believer, I honestly did not witness this principle in action by a lot of people who said they were saved. In fact, some of the meanest, ugliest people I have ever met were sitting in the pews on Sunday. A lot of what I heard was biased opinion and pure slander from some of these “good folks,” especially in how they treated the pastor and his family. I heard a lot of gossip about some members; and in the case of my parents, when they divorced, it was committing the unpardonable sin to some of these “good” brothers and sisters.” And as a result, my parents never darkened the doors of a church again.

How many people are walking around today mad at God because of some foolish words or actions done by someone who said they were a Christian?

I’ve experienced this both as a former pastor and a member of a church. It’s a plague brought about by people who were, quite frankly, never really saved in the first place, but played the religious game. It’s a serious reason why a lot of young people leave the church after high school and college and do not return until later, if at all.

Let me address one more example of what I believe was a rather cold, callous response to a tragedy that occurred a couple of weeks ago and probably cemented in the minds of a lot of people that Christians were not showing compassion over a troubling issue in society, and were just plain ugly about it. I know that after reading the comment made by one “believer” that, if I were not a Christian, what was said would have turned me away from Jesus for good. Sometimes I believe that the pagans have more compassion, especially when it regards the tragedy of suicide.

A young pastor from a rather large church in Southern California had been engaged in a series of counseling sessions with a couple while battling his own depression and mental trauma. He ended up killing himself, and it was not a day later that someone on an “apologetics” website declared that the young pastor had gone to hell for murdering himself instead of going to the LORD for help. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that more ministers don’t take their lives, especially considering some of the wolves they constantly encounter within their congregations and the feeling of being in a “fishbowl” with all eyes staring at them, waiting for a mistake to happen.

It is said that 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to burnout, impossible demands, family trouble, infidelity, low pay, depression, and other issues. The point I want to stress, however, is that I don’t find specific Scriptures telling me that a believer in the depths of their sorrow or condition who take their own lives will have their redemption taken away by the LORD. He may chastise them when they come before Him and show them what they could have done instead of committing an act that short-changed their work and gave the church a bad name. Also, Dr. Charles Stanley has an online message on suicide that is worth hearing.

I don’t want to argue interpretations, and maybe I need to do some more study; but as a former pastor and hospital chaplain, I’ve had to deal with this tragedy and help the survivors, such as parents and spouses, to figure out the reasons why something like this happened, and to pray that a merciful God, who, as the Judge of all the Earth, will indeed do what is right (Genesis 19:25).

What the world needs to see from the Christians is a body of believers who, not just stand for what they proclaim in the face of adversity, but also shed the tears of empathy and godly love and let the Holy Spirit use them as being the grief-stricken people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

We as the church have let the world’s anger and ungodly living stain us and make us as emotionally compromised as them and thwart the reason for our being on this earth; and that is to show the glory and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who are tired of the world’s garbage, and to show them what real life is all about.

This is why John keeps bringing up the importance of loving one another as a family united by the saving grace of Christ and to show this life to the spiritually destitute. This is also why the Scriptures implore us to make sure that we really are in Christ and not a “false convert” (2 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 6:4-6; 1 John 2:19).

If you say that you’re a Christian, then act like it. Surrender to the absolute rule of Jesus Christ, and obey Him without complaint or question. Stay close to Him in prayer. Pray for your pastor and his family against the attacks of false beliefs and those of the devil. Think before you say anything. Keep in the Word. Pray for the ability to not have a critical spirit; and if you see a brother stumbling, help him in his journey (Galatians 6:1-5). Our faith is not just true spiritual freedom, but is the only practical means of making it in this world until the Lord Jesus returns.

John will have more to say when we meet next time. May the Lord Jesus Christ protect and guide you until then. Amen.