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Love One Another February 20, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 John 3:11-24.

Summary: John begins by telling his readers that his teaching regarding brotherly love should not have seemed new to them. He then cites the negative example of Cain to show that the world will hate them gratuitously; since Cain was ruled by impiety, he murdered his brother, Abel – who was ruled by piety. Now those who are endued with benevolence and humanity are blessed, while those who cherish hatred are miserable. Moreover, those who cherish hatred are murderers, and they are condemned before God.

John then cites the positive example of Christ to spur his readers to forget themselves and seek the good of others; He testified to the depth of His love for them by not sparing His own life. Thus, whenever they see an opportunity to help others, they should feel sympathy with them and help them – based on their love of God. He exhorts them to prove their love of God by their deeds.

Now John states that by seeking the good of others, his readers will show that the truth of God lives in them. On the other hand, those who cherish hatred can be divided into two groups:

  • those who are condemned by their own hearts
  • those who are judged by God, who judges more severely than their own hearts.

Yet those who seek the good of others can:

  • testify with their hearts that they are conscious of what is right and honest
  • pray to God because they sincerely worship Him.

Indeed, believers are commanded by God to:

  • embrace Christ as He is set forth in the Gospel message
  • seek the good of others.

John concludes by stating that those who keep these commands are united to God, because the Holy Spirit rules their lives.

Thoughts: In verse 12, John cites Cain as a negative example for his readers in terms of dealing with others. This reminds me that Jude also cites Cain as a negative example for his readers in his letter; also, the author of the letter to the Hebrews cites Cain as a negative example for his readers. Since Cain is apparently consistently condemned in the latter portion of the New Testament, his story would have been familiar to the readers of these letters. It is likely that first-century Christians regarded that story with a mixture of disgust and horror, since Cain committed the first recorded act of murder. Thus, they would have responded appropriately to the above-mentioned citations of Cain. On a related note, one could infer from these citations that Cain was not ultimately saved. It should be noted, though, that the Lord did protect Cain from harm in Genesis 4, so his ultimate destination remains a mystery…

In this passage, John exhorts his readers to seek the good of others. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 17:

The fourth is that no act of kindness pleases God unless it is accompanied with sympathy. There are many apparently generous people who do not feel for the miseries of their brothers. But the apostle requires that we have pity, which happens when we feel sympathy with others in their distress just as if it were our own.

I found Calvin’s point to be challenging, as I can identify with the “apparently generous people” he mentions. I have participated in several service projects over the years, but I have rarely felt genuine sympathy with those who I have served on those occasions. Perhaps my background has influenced me in this regard; since I did not grow up in a disadvantaged situation, I have difficulty identifying with the struggles and problems of those who I am serving. I usually assume that their disadvantaged situations stem from their mistakes. Now if my background has influenced me in this regard, then the Holy Spirit will need to work in me so that I can feel genuine sympathy for those who I serve. This will require a great deal of prayer – especially on my part – and grace from God.

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