Love One Another, 1 John 3
Sunday School Commentary Lesson
Dr. Jason Thrower
Love One Another, 1 John 3: 11-24
When I was around eight years old, I was always getting sick. My pediatrician said that I
needed my tonsils taken out. He told my parents that I would be put to sleep for the surgery. I
was more than a little bit nervous and uneasy about the procedure. And, to make bad matters
worse, on the morning of the surgery, my pastor Rev. Bloodsworth, arrived wearing a dark suit.
I started screaming frantically when he walked through the door. Finally my mom got me to
quiet down and asked me, "what in the world was the matter" - I said, "the preacher is here for
my funeral. I've only seen him at church before. What's he doing here?!"
He tried to explain that he was only there to share God's love and concern with me, but he had
his work cut out for him sharing love in action over my hysterical screaming. I guess I've always
been overly dramatic.
That experience reminds me that it can be difficult to love one another. Our attempts to share
the love of God may not always be well received. In the name of the resurrected loving Christ,
we are called as Christians to selflessly love one another.
"How plain, how full, and how deep a compendium of genuine Christianity!" Thus did John
Wesley estimate the first Epistle of John. As three of the canon's catholic or general epistles,
the Johannine letters have justly enjoyed esteem disproportionate to their size. As well as
rewards, these texts offer their interpreters great theological insight and truth about how to
live the Christ life.
The style of the writing of the epistle of 1 John is similar in phrasing to the Gospel of John. But
there is not an open salutation or closing farewell to a particular audience. 1 John is deep as
the ocean, yet simple enough for anyone to read with benefit. 1 John wasn't written in a linear
way, so this book is hard to outline. But it's circular style corresponds to the way we live and
learn. 1 John emphasizes a number of subjects - love, light, knowledge, life - and it keeps
circling back to them throughout this letter. This epistle presents Jesus as the Son of God who
came in the flesh. Those who reject Him are heretics, antichrists, and liars. Those who receive
Him are children of light and love with assurance of everlasting life. Christian living isn't easy,
but it is simple and certain - a matter of staying in the light, walking with Jesus, confessing sins,
loving others, and knowing we have eternal life. That's the wonderful message of 1 John..
Love Defined by Its Opposite
1 John 3: 11-18 pushes us to take a hard look at the violence in our world, and to look through
that violence to its root in lovelessness. The writer's assertion that hatred is tantamount to
murder (1 John 3:15) may seem exaggerated to some. In fact, it could not be more clearsighted or on target. Warp love, and hate thrives. Hand hate a gun, and someone gets
murdered. Blood from a hundred murders stains every hour of every day in the United States
and throughout the world. The spirit of Cain lives on in the will and the thirst for violence,
which is the opposite of love. The author of 1 John could have predicted most of the murders
are not strangers to their victims but members of the same family. Husbands knife their wives;
wives shoot their husbands; children and parents slay each other. The horrifying pattern is
magnified among the world's religions, whose adherents slaughter their kin: Buddhists and
Hindus in Sri Lanka, Jews and Muslims in Palestine, Catholics and Protestants in Northern
Ireland. Violence has become so commonplace that many Christians have grown callous to
malice, accustomed to murder, and mute on this rampant obscenity. And so we are judged by
our text, which exposes our indifference to evil and the circumscription of our own love.
Love Shown by Actions
We hear the word love so much if we are not careful it can lose its significance upon our lives.
The author rescues this well worn word love and helps us to gain a new perspective for the
majesty and wonder of God's amazing and redeeming love. The word love is used all through
this passage. It is not enough to agree about the centrality and importance of receiving God's
love. In turn we must generously share the love of God with one another. Because we are
loved by God we are compelled to share his life-giving transformational love. Loving one
another means to visit the sick, care for the grieving, encourage the depressed, and help those
in need. Each of us as followers of Christ are to seek to love as he did. As followers of Christ we
are called to be Jesus with skin, to love one another in practical and tangible ways that will
improve someone's life in the here and now, as well as for eternity.
Love Tested by the Heart
The basic command of 1 John is to love one another. Some people can be difficult and hard to
love. But we are not to love in our own strength or merit. It is only through the power of the
risen Savior are we enabled to do what would be beyond our own natural ability. 1 John clearly
reveals that love is a verb and followers of Jesus are to experience a radical change of heart and
life. "Little children, let's not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how
we know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God's presence."
(1 John 3:18-19). God alone has made love a reality for us. Without the assurance of the
gospel, we would remain trapped in hate and paralyzed in fear. This passage from 1 John
compels us to go beyond the pew: on the streets or at home, in a prison or playground, a
workplace or soup kitchen, a hospital or funeral home - wherever God's children find
themselves among those in need. We don't have two histories, one where we become children
of God and the other by which we become each other's brother or sister. We have one history,
aptly captured in the Cotton Patch Version of 1 John 3:18: "My little one's, let's not talk about
love. Let's not sing about love. Let's put love into action and make it real." Without such
responsible love, the distance between miserliness and murder is, as 1 John cautions us,
considerably shorter than we think. Thanks be to God, who, through Jesus Christ and the
discipline of his Spirit, gives us the vision, the energy, and the resources to nurture life and
against all odds empowers us to love one another.
Contact Jason at [email protected]