In our studies from 1 John 2:28-3:10 (see previous blog entitled Satisfaction in Jesus) we saw what it means to have complete joy in life. That is in order to have a satisfied mind we must be satisfied in Jesus. We considered the sacrifice that He made on our behalf in order that our sin be forgiven and that we be adopted ac children of God. God's free grace was given to His people in order that we be saved from sin to life eternal.
As with simple mathematics A+B=C so it is with our faith. When we are converted Jesus Christ enters the equation of life and so there must be a result or effect of Him being added. The result the Lord Jesus declares is best to be seen by the way that we love one another. In John 13:35 Jesus said to his disciples that the world would know that they are His friends by the way that they love one another.
How does this work out?
John's letter is really a commentary upon what Jesus was teaching on this important subject. Consider John 13:34; Jesus' new commandment: “Love one another just as I have loved you!”The way is clear: we are to love each other just as Jesus has loved us. Jesus' love for us therefore ought to make a difference, this is not an optional extra but a commandment. It is imperative and much relies on our faithfulness in the task.
John in the section that we are considering gives at least 2 issues that should then be true of us:
- We are not to be like we were.
- We should not expect to be popular.
We are not to b like we used to be.
In verse 12 John uses Cain as a prototype of what we used to be. He is in a way a perfect example of the unconverted man. It amazes me that murder came so soon after the fall (see previous posting: murder so soon!) Cain murdered not an enemy but his own brother:
He was jealous of righteous Abel. He was offended that Abel's sacrifice was accepted by God but his own offering was rejected. He had not understood that the only acceptable way that man can come into the presence of God is by blood sacrifice. The evidence of our own works or the toil of our hands is not enough to turn God's anger away from our sin, it needs a sacrifice which at that time pointed to the perfect sacrifice made by Jesus.
You may well ask how Cain would know this?
It would then be easy to conclude that God is being unfair to him because he was ignorant. This cannot be the case because his brother knew what was acceptable to God. Abel was righteous and Cain was unrighteous.
How then did Abel know what was acceptable to God?
This would be a difficult question to answer if it were not for the fact that after the fall when God sought out sinful Adam and found him pathetically covered by sewn together fig leaves; God then covered Adam and Eve's shame with animal skins. By this very act God declared what would then always been true; man cannot come into His presence without a sacrifice having been made on his behalf. Abel knew that but Cain would not come as God demanded. Cain could have been the first man to sing “I did it my way” and along with all who have such a philosophy Cain's way led him into the wilderness and out of God's presence.
John is telling us to no longer be like Cain, which is the old man! We are to be like Abel who was faithful to God's declared truth. We are not all murderers as was Cain but when we apply Jesus' standard to our lives and remember that it was He who said that hate is as murder and lust as adultery then we begin to realise what a difficult task befalls us in order that we become like Him.
Jesus tells us that we must be like Him in order that our witness be truly effective.
What is it to be like Jesus?
His life was evidenced by His self sacrifice, He gave far more than we can ever know or even imagine. He did not even count His equality with God the Father to be of great importance when our salvation was being accomplished!
- He gave up position, glory and authority in heaven.
- He gave up the banqueting hall of heaven for the feeding trough of an oxen.
- He gave up the comfort of the heavenly Jerusalem for life in the back streets of Nazareth.
- He gave up the creating work of God for a saw, hammer, nails and timber.
- He gave up omnipresence in order to reside in a small town in a small country in a small world.
- He gave up glory for disgrace.
- He gave up righteousness and became sin on our behalf.
- He gave up eternal life for death on a cross.
- He gave up fellowship with God the Father for His wrath, anger and judgment due to our sin.
- He gave up more than we could ever know or imagine on our behalf and finally He gave up life.
His final words when He finally gave up everything were “My God, My God why have You forsaken me?” In this He took on what Psalm 22 prophesies of Him, the Holy One of Heaven had to die on the cross!
The answer is simple but most profound and really quite remarkable; He did all of this because He loved His people. That is He died for all whom He has saved and will save from the penalty of their sin. That is how Jesus loves His church. He tells us that we are to love each other in exactly the same way.
That is hard.
John tells us that Cain represents what we are naturally like but Abel speaks of One who is even more righteous than He. It is Jesus who shows what righteousness looks like and He sets the example as to how the church should love each other.
The problem is:
Where can we find such love? We ought to see it every time that we meet with the church, but do we?
Why is there so much acrimony in the church? Why do we find gossip and backbiting? Why do we find factions etc? You can add so many more issues of your own to the list but the simple question is WHY?
The answer to that is very simple but the remedy is hard. The answer is that this side of heaven we are still infected with the sin bug and until we are glorified we will make mistakes and we will sin. But that is not an excuse; Jesus said that we must love one another and John is enforcing that here in this passage.
This then brings us to the remedy. I said that it was hard but the instruction is easy. The instruction to love just simply rolls off the tongue but the remedy takes great effort. The simple answer is hard work. We must make every effort to love as Jesus loved. I am sure that this will be the subject of a later posting but for now we must satisfy ourselves with the fact that we must love as Jesus did, not forgetting that His love was conditional and that it included righteous authority and at times straight talking and even punishment. Jesus' love is not sloppy sentimentalism and neither must ours be. We are to love our brothers as Jesus did and then all men will know we are His disciples! Anything less will bring dishonour to His name and to the Church and also each one of us as His people. The effort is not only worthwhile but it is imperative! It is a commandment:
Work hard at loving each other!
The amazing result of this is that we will not be popular in the world.
We should not expect to be popular:
This might to some seem to be a strange thing for John to teach. Cain and Abel are a prototype for the world and t he church. Cain hated Abel because his deeds were righteous. His hatred was born out of jealousy and his own unrighteousness. Cain set the example that is still with us today, people (even family) hate the righteous acts of the people of faith. We should not be too surprised at unbelievers hating us because as Jesus said they will hate us because they first hated Him.
Our news reports are full of examples of hatred towards unbelievers. We are mis-represented and made to be the but of jokes simply because of who we believe in. In the West our persecution is mild next to what our brothers and sisters are experiencing in places like Nigeria, North Korea, the Philippines etc. But we do have problems to contend with in our non-Christian homes, in the street that we live in, in the school that we attend or the workplace etc. We are at the very least seen as a people who are to be mocked. The media and pressure groups of all kinds of persuasions feel free to pillory Christians mercilessly. We should not be too surprised at this but in fact we should expect it says John.
They hate Jesus and therefore they will hate His people also. Our acceptance by God automatically means hatred from the world. We will not be popular.
I once heard of a boy who was obnoxious at home. His parents despaired of his every action but then he was converted and his whole attitude changed. He became a model child but the parents did not like it. They soon wanted the old boy back, they wanted anybody but a follower of Jesus.
Because people hate Jesus whatever they say!
We are simply the “knock on effect “ of that hatred. All of our works of mercy and social action even though important will be accepted by people but they will not naturally love our Jesus or even us because of them. People will be pleased to take from us but will not want our Jesus.
Through all of this we must always remember that God loves us and what we are and so He expects us to show His love to each other by our personal love for His people. We must love the family of God which is the church.
We must love others as Jesus loved them. His own people on one day praised Him as He entered into Jerusalem, He knew what was in their hearts and that they would in a few days call for His death but yet He displayed His love for them. He would love to have lovingly gathered them under the shadow of his wing as does a hen with her chicks but they would not let Him. Do we love those who hurt us as Jesus did? We must!
Righteous Abel declared truth to Cain even by his death. The scripture tells us that his blood cried out from the ground to Cain. Jesus' blood cries out from the gospel declaration to the unrighteous but it needs to be clearly declared. It is only by the gospel that sinners discover their unrighteousness, it is not by our good deeds or even by our love for each other, these things simply prove that we are Jesus' disciples. The gospel does the saving work when directed from the lips of man into the hearts of sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit. All that we can do in this is to faithfully proclaim but along with it we must love each other to prove who we are and also be merciful because like God we are a merciful people. We have received ultimate mercy from God and so we are merciful to others because we are like Him.
Does this sound like the church that you belong to? I hope so but I guess we can all testify that we fall far short of perfection therefore we must work at it.
It has been said that “ the world at it's worst needs the church to be at her best!” Is it possible for the world to get any worse? I doubt it, that being the case then we as the church should be more determined than ever to be the very best that we can.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples: That you love one another!