Week 31: May 20, 2012 / Sept 9 2012
Having contrasted sin with abiding in Christ, John now gives two positive examples to show what abiding in Christ and love really mean.
16 – This is how we have come to know love: the Messiah gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our lives for our brothers.
- John started this section by saying we are to love one another. Now he gives us some examples of what he means by Love. The greatest example is that Christ died for us, he gave (laid down) his life for us. Notice that John says, For us… This is key for he did not just die to show love in some general abstract sense, he died for us.
- We, too, ought to give our lives
As the Gospel of John taught, Jesus is our example in all things, even this. Does this mean that we should go find someone to die for? No. This should not be seen as our sole duty; this is the limit of our duty. We should be willing to give of ourselves up to and including our very lives. This is not just what we can “afford” nor is it to give of our excess. After all could Jesus “afford” to give his life?
17 – Whoever has earthly possessions and notices a brother in need and yet withholds his compassion from him, how can the love of God be present in him?
- Since most of us will not be called upon to give our lives, John further expands on this with a more day to day example.
- Whoever has earthly possessions
When understood within the historical context in which Jesus spoke, that is the economic conditions of the time, when translated to today, this would include virtually every American.
- withholds his compassion from him (κλείω ὁ σπλάγχνον αὐτός ἀπό αὐτός)
- The picture here is of locking up (κλείω) our natural feelings, in short of hardening our heart. It is important to note here that John does not say withhold our goods. Tithing or giving to the benevolent fund is not what John is talking about here. The focus here is more on how we feel, rather than what we do. What we may do in any given situation is complicated. How we should feel about it is not.
- This is because if we have the right attitude, it is far more likely that the correct actions will follow and he will be dealing with actions shortly.
- how can the love of God be present in him?
If God has compassion for those in need, and we are filled by the love of God, how can we not also have compassion for those in need?
a. Expansion: True Love Acts (3:18-20)
i. True Love Acts (3:18)
*18 – Little children, we must not express love merely by our words and manner of speech; we must love also in action and in truth.
- Little children
Again we have a common marker of a transition. Here John will add actions to the feelings discussed in the previous verse.
- we must love in action and in truth
While our feelings are important, without action they are of little value. Why does John add Truth? Truly loving someone in need often takes a great deal of discernment. It involves a good understanding of the circumstances, and the actions we take must do more that alleviate our conscience, they must actually improve the situation. Giving money to a starving alcoholic on skid row, is likely to do nothing other than pay for more alcohol, and further their problem. We might walk away thinking that we have done a nice thing, but in truth all we have done is worsen the problem.
Questions and Discussion
The discussion this week centered on what constitutes a “good” action. As mentioned above, this is not always easy to determine. In addition truly helping can often take a lot more commitment than just giving some money. On the other hand there are far more worthy causes then we have the ability to support. We can’t do it all, and God does not expect us to. It will take a lot of prayer and consideration to determine which ones God may be calling you to support. Finally, we are to be good stewards of our money. We should check out those groups that we support, but this should be in proportion to the how much you are giving. The recommendation of a friend may be enough for small one-time gift, but a more serious ongoing financial support, should not be done haphazardly.
If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org
Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.
 3:16 Lit. he
 3:18 ISV: we must stop expressing
 3:18 The Gk. lacks love
 3:18 Or work