In Deed and Truth
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
What is the difference between the children of God and the children of the Devil? Those who love other Christians are indeed the children of God, but those who profess the name of Christ while hating the brethren reveal themselves to be children of the Devil (1 John 3:10).
John has used Cain as the preeminent example of the one who is of the Devil. This son of Adam hated his brother Abel to the extent that he ended Abel’s life (v. 12). Because all sin originates from the heart, those who consistently hate other Christians even while professing faith are also murderers and do not have eternal life (v. 15).
In today’s passage, John gives us the supreme example of love, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, in order that we might know what it means to love one another. The apostle writes that we are to imitate the love of Jesus by having so much concern for our brethren that we are willing to lay down our lives for them (v. 16).
John does not mean for us to think our imitation of the love of Christ will involve atonement for sin, for it is the blood of Jesus alone that can save us (1:7). But we can model the love of Jesus in being willing to die for other Christians, even Christians who have wronged us, if it would be necessary to preserve their lives. John Calvin, in his comments on 3:16, writes, “our feelings should be so formed and regulated that we may desire to devote our life and also our death, first to God, and then to our neighbors.”
Many of us will never find ourselves in a situation where we will have to give up physical life for another. Yet we can show our willingness to lay down our lives for our brothers in other real, though perhaps less extreme, ways. We read in 3:17–18 that we must love in deeds of mercy, opening our hearts to those Christians who lack the necessities of life. For those of us living in a wealthy, Western society, this means not ignoring the needs of others in our congregation but actively seeking to give of our time and money to help the poor and care for widows (James 1:27). Instead of living to the full extent of our means, we should be using our means to help others.
As our income increases, it becomes easier to spend the extra money on things we really do not need instead of using it to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and extend the Gospel. While we cannot set some kind of legalistic standard on how much we should give away, we must also be careful that we do not buy into Western materialism. Consider how you might give up those things you do not need in order to provide for believers who lack the basic necessities of life.
Passages for Further Study
Deut. 15:1–11; Prov. 31:8–9; Luke 14:12–14; Gal. 2:10