Jump Start # 1928
1 John 3:11 “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
I was doing some digging around in 1 John, the other day. The word “love” is found 26 times. There is the “God is love” passages and a warning to love not the world, but the majority of these verses are about loving one another. Christians loving fellow Christians. Over and over it is repeated to love one another. Our verse today states that you have heard this from the beginning. From the beginning of your learning about Christ, it has always been a love based faith. God so loved the world. We are to love one another.
Why? Why was this necessary to repeat so many times? Why this late in the New Testament? You’d think by the time this book was written, folks would know. Why do we have to be told over and over to love one another?
John doesn’t specifically tell us why. Obviously, this was important and this was needed. Here are some thoughts:
First, the church is like a family. Unlike friends who we choose to be with, we are born into a family with brothers and sisters. Had we not been in that family, those people may not have been our friends. We grow to like and love those people because they are our family. The church is much like this. We don’t choose who will be a member. If we are doing what God says, we are preaching the Gospel to everyone. Everyone is invited. Everyone is welcome. Now that brings people that we may not have chosen to be our friends. That brings people with different colors and different backgrounds than our own. That brings people with different ages than ours. It brings in the single person as well as the single parent. It brings in the senior citizen as well as the teenager. It brings in those who have had a rough background and those who came from good homes. Here we all are in one big church family. Back then, it was Jews and Gentiles. It was masters and slaves. Both groups would not normally socialize or even chit-chat with each other. But now, we have all become family because of Christ. His blood has saved us all and now we are connected in a church family, a congregation. It’s important that we love. It’s important that every person feels accepted, wanted and needed.
Second, it’s very easy to love only those that are like me. Jews would love Jews. Masters would love masters. Gentiles would love Gentiles. But this forms separations and groups and is nothing like what Jesus did. Look who He chose to be apostles. There were some from Galilee and one from Judea. There was a tax collector and a Jewish zealot. There were fishermen and non-fishermen. There were two sets of brothers and the rest were not related. There were partners in business and the rest who were not in business with each other. Such an odd mixture. Maybe a mini picture of what the church would be like. Unity and fellowship are built upon connecting with each other and working with each other. We are to be the body of Christ. The body works together. The body needs every part. Thus, love one another. This means crossing the boundaries to people who are not like me. This means sharing, caring and loving those who are different than I am. Love one another.
Third, every generation needs to learn these lessons. Our verse states, “you have heard from the beginning.” While this is true, we forget. We may have “heard” it but have never practiced it. New faces, new people all have to learn these old truths. The good a church does can be ruined by one generation that becomes standoffish and refuses to love one another. It’s pretty easy to sense when love is missing. There are a lot of whispering going on. Suspicious eyes are always quick to catch who is talking to who and who is sitting where. Tension is thick when love is missing. There is a hidden message that some are not welcomed there. All the good that church will try to accomplish will be limited because love does not abound. John says to love one another.
Fourth, Satan will do all that he can to destroy a church. He’ll fire the cannons of false teaching. That will catch a few. He’ll throw trouble and chaos. That’ll snag a few. He’ll attack the leaders. He’ll try to take out the next generation of leaders. But his greatest weapon is when a church lacks love for each other. Let a church turn on itself. Internal fussing and fighting and a good ole’ fashioned dispute among the people will lead to division and it will stop the good that it is doing. The focus will shift to the problems. All the energy will turn to which side ought one to be on. Ugly things will be said. Accusations will fly. Forgiveness, grace and love will be forgotten. And when the dust settles, if anyone has survived, there are generally folks who have quit, kids who grow up with this sour taste in their mouths about Christians and often times two struggling churches that are on life support. And, Satan smiles. He sucked the love out of their hearts and now they have turned on each other like bitter enemies. He has accomplished just what he intended. John says, “Love one another.”
Love one another does not mean change each other. Of course, we all have to become like Christ. We all are to walk in righteousness and develop the heart and characteristics of Christ. But with that, a Jewish Christian back then didn’t have to start liking pork. He may never eat pork. The Gentile would. Love each other. Those things don’t have to change. Some like country music. Some like opera. Some like the 60’s rock ‘n roll. Some don’t care. Love each other. Some like staying home. Some are barely home. They are always out doing things. Some are indoor people. Some live outdoors. Some like reading. Some don’t. Some like to eat out. Some like home cooked meals. Some like just a family at a time over. Others like a house full. Some think Philippians is the greatest book of the Bible. Others like Proverbs. Some like more hymns than preaching. Others like more preaching than hymns. Some like practical sermons. Some like textual sermons. Love others does not mean I have to change who I am. As long as we both are walking with the Lord, we’ll have our unique differences and our likes and dislikes, but we can still join hand and in hand, love each other, work together and worship as one. We, with our differences, can still be one in mind, one in voice and one in heart. With our differences, we are still united in one purpose and that is the glory of God. We, with our differences, want the kingdom to grow. We, different as we are, can learn from each other, encourage each other and help each other. We, with our differences, need each other.
John’s words are, “love one another.” That makes a lot of sense. This needs to be preached more and practiced often. Prodigals will come home when they know that they are loved. Young men will get up and try things when they know that they are loved, even if they make a mistake. When love abounds, you’ll find a lot of forgiveness. When there is love you’ll see smiles and hugs. Where there is love, you’ll find Christ in the heart.
It’s not always easy to love each other. Some days we have a hard time loving ourselves. It’s what God wants and for that, we will. We will go out of our way to talk to those we don’t normally talk to. We’ll include those who are different than we are to our home. We’ll tolerate the odd personalities. We’ll put up with the guy who tells the dumbest jokes or his stories go on forever. We’ll do that, because first, God puts up with us, and they also, put up with us.
Love one another. John wrote it often, probably because we need to be reminded.