God’s spirit empowers us to love as Jesus did, showing God’s presence in and to us.
1 John 3:16-24
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
There is something wonderful about the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes it is shown in simple ways – a meal, a kind word, help with chores during a tough week. Sometimes it is more substantial – very generous gifts, struggling together through long dark hours, a large team of Christian friends working to help someone overcome the unexpectedly huge problems of life. There is something very beautiful about that love, sense of belonging, acceptance, sacrifice, kindness, compassion and joy overflowing. When we hear a story that captures Christians serving each other in this way it deeply warms our hearts. When we experience that love for ourselves, we see Jesus ministering to us directly.
What is it that drives Christians to love and serve in this way?
In today’s passage, John brings us first to Jesus’ death on the cross – being loved and saved by Jesus is the very core of who we are. His sacrifice, and overwhelming love, should be the driving force behind the relationships in our church. John tells us directly that the way to mirror the love of our Father is to lay down our lives for our friends (v16). It may not be physically dying to save others, but sacrificing possessions, giving a helping hand or even just giving a listening ear. Just as Jesus took pity on the brokenness of us and our world, we too should take pity on those around us and always strive to be compassionate and kind.
Sacrifice isn’t just about verbally acknowledging pain and moving on, it’s about actions and deeds (v18). It could be walking beside someone through the hardest part in their life or cleaning someone’s garbage bins. Love isn’t about helping someone out and then expecting them to return the favour. We aren’t asked to die on a cross to follow in Jesus’ steps. We are called to love, and to love unconditionally, just as Jesus loves us. We can do this because Jesus’ spirit lives in us. We see how we are changed by God’s spirit – and how our brothers and sisters are changed by him – and it testifies that God lives, and God loves. When we follow Jesus’ example and command to love by the spirit, then his light shines through us.
Those who don’t yet know Jesus could have their views on Christians or the church forever changed by just the radical and seemingly endless love of God and his children.
Head: What is the source of our motivation for showing deep love? How do you connect yourself to that source each day?
Heart: How do you feel when you see or experience the love of Christ in our church community? How does it help you feel connected to God?
Hands: Look for opportunities to show Jesus’ love to your sisters and brothers. On the other hand, if you need some support, have you asked for help yet? (Talk to your Growth Group leader or the Next Steps desk if you don’t know who to ask.)
Prayer: Our Father, thank you that your spirit lives in us because of Jesus. Thank you that he is at work in our lives, transforming us to live and love like you. We thank you for the times that the love of Christ, shining through your people by the work of your spirit, has testified to how great you are. We thank you that we can know your love and transformation within our hearts by the work of your spirit there. Please help us to follow Jesus’ command to love you and others. Amen.
A song to listen to: This Life I Live
Geoff Pryde and Maddie Pryde- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina