(Read I John 3:11-24)
John makes clear that love for one another is obedience to God, and it has always been that way.
"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another." (11)
He cites Cain's refusal to love his brother Abel as an example of disobedience to the command and then calls us to not be like Cain. He also states that the evidence that we have passed from death to life (see also John 5:24) is that we love our brothers (read "others"). So clearly loving others is not an option for those who seek to follow after Jesus, but what does love look like?
John helps us understand what love looks like by referencing Jesus' sacrificial death and encouraging us to sacrifice for the good of others.
"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.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him,
how can the love of God be in him?
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth." (16-18)
What would it mean to love "with actions and in truth"?
This past weekend I was privileged to listen to a seminar on finding a Biblical perspective for the immigration debate. The speaker said that in order for us to address this debate Biblically, we must begin with the more foundational reality - the immigrant's humanity; i.e. each person is made in the image of God.
I think starting with the image of God in all humans is critical in the immigration debate, but I also believe it can offer us a better way forward in loving our neighbor. If each person I encounter on a daily basis is my neighbor, shares my humanity, and is created in God's image, then God's command to love "with actions and in truth" is binding. I must care for the needs of the other, and seek to understand their needs in order to meet them, even as I seek to understand and meet my own needs.
Loving "with actions and in truth" will lead us to do something for those we encounter, when their need is apparent. Indeed we must do something! However, doing something does not mean doing everything. Sometimes to love "in truth" will require us to offer relationship without meeting other needs because the person created in God's image may need to learn to care for themselves.
Deciding how to help actively and truthfully, requires great discernment and a close relationship to God Himself. Only God is able to meet our greatest need, so we must be careful not to overstep our role as "brother" or "sister" into trying to be a savior. Again, knowing the best response for a particular situation will require great discernment, but I think the best place to begin is relationship.
In relationship, I offer myself to another and honor them by creating space in my life for them. Healthy relationships begin with real friendship, and enable us to see that the best gift we can give and receive is ourselves.
So how can you show love by creating space for another in your life this week? I invite you to share your ideas and other comments, as we journey together along the way ...