google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Gems in the Letter of 1 John - Part 111

Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 110 - 1 John 3:11

JG 111 1 John 3:11 Love! Some time ago I suggested that John was very fond of taking an idea and batting it backwards and forwards rather like a tennis player with a ball. Never is that more true than here in these chapters 3 and 4 where he talks about love. In 3: 11 he says we should ‘love one another’. At 3: 1 he talked about ‘the Father lavishing love upon us.’ Very nice – but what do they mean? Unfortunately the word ‘love’ in the English language is a very slippery word to pin down. It certainly doesn’t mean the love that hundreds and thousands of pop singers are always on about with a tinge of sexuality involved somewhere. What do they mean?

The other day I was sitting watching some small birds called sparrows enjoying some seeds we had given them. British sparrows, if you do not know them, are about the most uninteresting little birds there are. They are only brown, different shades of brown, with an odd dash of black. Their idea of a song is very quaint. They just chirp endlessly, thinking they are making an interesting noise – they aren’t, well possibly interesting to other sparrows, but no one else. And we spend good money to buy seed for them in the winter - why? I suppose we feel sorry for them and that we should do something for them, just out of the goodness of our hearts.

Much of this is what God does in the way he treats us. Why should he? He is, after all, even further above us than we are above sparrows. Yet he cares for us; he feeds us; he makes sure we have enough to eat, to keep us going. Can we say he loves us? Yes! Amazingly we can. Very fortunately for us he made us in his own image so he has an interest in us and feels a responsibility for us surpassing that for any other creatures on earth.

What does he do for us that we do not do for the sparrows? The sparrows will chirp endlessly away until they get too cold and fall over or fall prey to a hawk and that is the end of them. We are given many abilities to do something more than just chirp away. We know where there is a doctor who can give us the medicines we need to keep us well and happy. We are told, and understand, that there are different ways of living. The sparrows do not understand that we are being good to them - we understand that there is a Creator God who has been wonderfully good to us. We have the power and ability to choose a different way of life. We can commit ourselves to following him who provides many good things for us. We can understand that there is a whole great created world out there into which we can fit. We can sing and express our joy in ways far beyond a sparrows chirping though we have never done anything that has made it inevitable that we should be so wonderfully granted the gifts of grace.

Is this love? Perhaps, in some ways, what I see in our back garden is an analogy of some part of what the love is like that the Bible talks about so much. Can you think of a better analogy of how God loves us and therefore of how we are to love each other?

In some ways it is easier to think about what the love of God to us is than to think of how we are to love to each other. We are to ‘love’ all those who are loved by God, our brothers and sisters, the members of the fellowship we find ourselves in, even when they can be a difficult lot sometimes! How can we define what the Bible means when it demands that we must love them? We have to do so in a way that is reasonable, that is beyond what might be expected of us in the normal attitudes of our general culture and society and that will enable us to feel satisfied that we are obeying the repeated commands such as ‘let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth’ as it says in 3: 18? And so that we may ‘have confidence before God because we keep his commands and do what pleases him’ as we read in 3: 22.

My suggestion is that we must always act before them with positive attitudes. We must never show any hint of a negative attitude to them, both the ones we find easy to be friends to and those we do not. If we act positively always and never negatively then we shall ‘set our hearts at rest in his presence’ and ‘we will have confidence before God’ as 3: 19 and 21 say we should.

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