Saturday, January 2, 2016

Jesus showed that Real Love is Costly: What Kind of Love Do You Have? (1 John 3:16-18)

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions
(1 John 3:16-17, NLT).

Love is something that is sung about, talked about, and argued about. There may be disagreement about what love really is. Different people, different culture, different beliefs, have different and various definitions for love. But the Apostle John reminds us that Jesus Himself showed us (not just said) what “love” is really all about. Jesus gave up His life so that we could have life. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.” He gave the supreme sacrifice to show us that love is often quite costly; and He did it willingly and voluntarily. Jesus said, “I’m a good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for his sheep” (John 10:11); “I sacrifice my life for the sheep” (10:15); “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (10:17-18).

In the same way, Jesus wants us to be prepared to make our love that costly if it is necessary. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Love doesn’t mean that we give to other what is left over or unwanted. It may mean at times that we give the very best we have. To love is to look after the other person’s good and not just our own. The Amplified Bible defines love (the Greek word agape) as not so much a matter of emotion as it is of doing things for the benefits of another person, that is, having an unselfish concern for another and a willingness to seek the best for another.

To be realistic, few, if any, of us will ever be called upon to sacrifice our lives for others – unless it should be in a situation such as war. I salute and respect my brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle-East, China, India and places where Christians are persecuted. They really give up their lives for Christ and others. But as for us in Malaysia and there rest of the world, John reminds that love is also shown in lesser acts than laying down our lives. “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need” we need to show compassion. We can show our love for God by caring about those around us who have needs. One of the reason we are given material things and money is to learn to share them with others, with those in need. The Apostle James writes, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:15-16). Or as John asked, “How can God’s love be in that person?

Notice that first John uses the plural form and refers to our “brothers and sisters” – a more general term referring to people, anyone. But then John uses the singular word “brother or sister.” Why? I think, it seems to mean that we may find it easy to love people in general, but not so easy to love in a personal or individual way. So, when we see a brother or sister in need, let us show loving-compassion. We may not be able to help everyone who are in need but we can shows compassion to the immediate needs around us. This is what makes our faith so dynamic, even revolutionary! We grow in our faith and love as we get beyond just talking about the needs of others or about the importance of love. “Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” How much better it is to be real – to show with our actions that we indeed do love other people. Jesus never once said directly, “I love you,” but no doubt as we look and observe His life, we know that He really loves us. This is love.

In the world that has so much “bad news” about murders, robberies, riots, and hatred, we can be a dynamic force to show the “Good News” that our God is indeed a God of love.  And we grow as God’s children as we learn to share this love with other people. Amen.

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