1 John 3:16-18
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. 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? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Love may be the most overused and under-realized word in our language. We might use this same word to describe our feelings for our spouse and for a cheeseburger. We can fill lines of poetry with flowery expressions of romance and yet fail to provide even the slightest actual assistance for someone in need. We love to talk about love, but far too often, we fall short of acting in loving ways. In Greek, the language John used to write this letter, there are several different words that can translate into English as love. He isn’t talking here about romantic love or how we might feel about a family member or about something that we really enjoy. Instead, John is describing agape, a special type of brotherly or sisterly love, a strong feeling of good will and concern for someone, particularly within the church. This kind of love doesn’t inspire sentimental poems; it inspires acts of compassion and sacrifice.
Jesus laid down his life for us. It was the ultimate act of agape, giving up his life to save ours. It might seem unfair to ask us to copy Jesus’ self-sacrificial love. After all, you aren’t called to be the Savior, not like Jesus. You can’t die to atone for someone else’s sin or trade your life for theirs. Our imitation of Jesus, while the absolute standard for the Christian life, will always be just a shadow or faint reflection of Jesus’ perfection. He showed us love in a way that we will never fully imitate, and yet, we are called to make his love the example we follow. Our actions, words and attitudes should mirror Jesus’ self-giving love, even to the point of laying down our lives, of sacrificing our needs and wants for a sister or brother.
John gives us a clear example of how we can live out this type of love. If you see someone in the church who is struggling with a financial need you can meet (or a physical ailment, disability, failing relationship, etc.), you have an opportunity to imitate Jesus’ agape love by giving of yourself and your resources to lift that person up. This may not mean handing out blank checks to everyone you know, but it does mean acting generously, instead of just saying empty words of hollow pity. You can’t solve the problems of every person you know, but God will use your self-giving acts of love to encourage, strengthen and sustain those in need. This is how we share Jesus’ love with one another.
Father, You are love, and Jesus has shown me how to love others. Forgive me for failing to care for those in need as I should. Teach me how to show compassion and how to imitate Jesus’ self-giving love. I ask this in His name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian