In 1 John 3:11-18, John gives us two ways that born again people love.

  1. Humbly rejoice at the greatness of others.
  2. Humbly sacrifice to meet the needs of others.

In verses 11-15, John tells us to rejoice at the greatness of others (especially Christians).  He also tells us how not to love.  He writes, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (vv. 12). Cain was jealous and was completely unable to rejoice with his brother Abel for his sacrifice offered to God.  John continues in verse 15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” When others succeed, the born again don’t murder them. They rejoice for them. I especially need grace in this. Lord, help me to celebrate the greatness of others instead of envying them!

In verses 16-18, John adds that a born again person loves others (especially Christians) by sacrificing to meet their needs.  He writes, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (vv. 16-17). The question is rhetorical. John says, “If you ignore the needs of people you don’t really have God’s love in you!” Lord, help me give sacrificially to others who are in need!

John ends with this tender, yet firm, command: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (v. 18). This doesn’t mean that we only love through actions. It doesn’t mean you are excused from saying to a Christian brother or sister, “I love you” (in a non-romantic sense!).  It also does not mean that people get saved because we give them food or drink.  Don’t mistake John: gospel people speak loving words, and the gospel message still needs to be spoken to non-Christians. Without loving, sacrificial actions (like rejoicing for people and providing for their basic needs), the gospel will not be taken seriously.

*               *               *

Update: To clarify, when I say “greatness of others,” this may refer to whatever reflection of our Creator you see in others. No one has inherent greatness (see Rom. 3:10-12), but God bestows upon his people a taste of his glory in our character, personality, talents, abilities, etc. As for non-Christians, they are also made in the image of God and still have amazing talents, abilities, and creative capacities.  We should celebrate these things in them as well and help point them to their Creator who gave them these gifts.

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2 thoughts on “How do born again people love?

  1. James, Hello.
    My name is Art – short for Arturo. I am of full blooded [legal] Mexican ancestry [ :) ], born in El Paso almost fifty-two years ago. I am a father of four grown children, and have been walking with the Lord since 1994. Life might be more fully blessed by now were it not for currently struggling in a 27 year marraige to an alcoholic wife.
    Furthermore, I’d also like to stress that I am no minister and that I am currently worshipping with a small start-up flock in a desperate inner city neighborhood within an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. My current privilege in and of my pre-appointed work [Ephesians 2:10] is that I am currently serving at the Allegheny County Jail in the heart of Pittsburgh, reaching out to both inmates and correctional officers alike, all to the glory of our God {God willing}!

    And that is my intro in full.

    Anyhow, now that you know me a tad better, I wanted you to know that I enjoy reading through your posts now and again but that I have to admit at being a tad perplexed at your notion of late where you suggest that we ought to “celebrate the greatness of others – instead of envying them[!]” as you’ve noted just above .. first, because I presume that by ‘others’ you’re refering to non-Christians.

    If my understanding of Scripture serves me right, there IS ‘no greatness in others’ being that ALL others are simply ‘stillborn’ sinners with enmity towards God, destined to that for or of which they are comprised – w r a t h [Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 1:21] … with still their very best works being regarded as very low [Isaiah 64:6] … all of which or in which there is absolutely nothing to envy.
    What’s more is that regarding the 1 John 3:11-15 references/interpretation, I likewise have always understood that passage to imply a love for one’s [redeemed] brother first and foremost – as in the bond of love in and of the brotherhood of the church.
    A saint harboring ill will and/or resentment toward one’s fellow elect, instead of love, hardly exemplifies the sacrificial act and/or bond of love that Christ himself exemplified for us – His Bride – which we are to encapsulate and emulate before a watching world [John 13:34-35; Romans 12:10 & 13:8; Galatians 5:13]. As such it mitigates against everything Christ would have the world to witness in and of His Bride – one to another – and agreed, it’s far worse and especially so when we do so before a world fixated on it’s own foolishness through us, even as the Gaynesville “pastor” has so thoroughly done to the shame of [His] witness [Romans 2:17-24, with emphasis on vs. 24].

    Needless to say, my brother, the greatest and only lasting thing that we have to offer to the dying, the stillborn world .. in and of any outreach of ‘love’ .. is the Gospel itself, and dare I say, alone [Matthew 28:19-20]. As you’re well aware, this was the Lord’s final instruction to us, which again, as a final communication usually encompasses the most important aspect of all that one has to say.
    Anyhow, this is something over which the world AND the ‘church’ are increasingly succumbing to mass confusion – that is, in regarding ‘love’ priorities.

    James, check-out Dobson’s “Family Talk” which recently aired this past Thursday, the 9th. They touched on this topic quite succinctly with sobering clarity. It’s titled ‘Humanitarian Jesus’ [http://www.myfamilytalk.com/Broadcast/Broadcast.aspx?i=ba74153a-ce3c-4243-9a72-6e2c1fe3a7f5].

    Bless you my friend … my brother! And do keep ’em coming!

  2. Art,

    Thanks for your comment. I realize that John is writing to and about Christians. However, we are certainly called to love all people. We shouldn’t treat Christians better than non-Christians. We are just make sure we care for our own family (Christians) first.

    And about the “greatness.” I don’t mean inherent greatness. If people read this blog, they’ll know that. I can make an update to clarify. “Greatness” may refer to whatever reflection of their Creator that you see in them. Even non-Christians are made in the image of God and have amazing talents, abilities, and creative capacities. We should celebrate these things.

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