1 John 3 (New Living Translation)
1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!
HERE is one of my favorite hymns — “Children of the Heavenly Father.” An old Scandinavian song, it is arranged here by Robert Scholz and sung by Cantorei of First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska. This song has been a mainstay in my life, wonderful to sing when life is good as well as when times are difficult. I commend it to you.
But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.
4 Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. 5 And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. 6 Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.
7 Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous.
8 But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.
Love One Another
11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
12 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13 So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.
16 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. 17 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?
I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart.
–Pope John XXIII, calling his listeners to show Christ-like mercy
18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
from Echoings from the Bible in Literature,
by J. Ruth Stenerson
“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. I am not sure that you are of the same kind. But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of light and speech, and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.”
–George Eliot, “Letter to Mrs. Burnes-Jones,” May 11, 1875
Have you noticed how often truths are found in what seem to be almost opposite statements—in dichotomies? “That artificial rose is so beautiful it almost looks real,” we say, and then are surprised to hear someone else say, “The rose on that bush is so beautiful it almost looks artificial.” There is validity in both statements.
We sometimes pose the same kind of paradox in relation to aspects of our Christian faith. “Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you way,” says one, only to hear another say in turn, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” as someone else says, “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ . . . you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
There is one side of another paradox that says “our love should be not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” But George Eliot provides the “on the other hand” as she writes, “I like . . . to be told that I am loved . . . and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.” As in the instances above, both sides of the paradox have something to tell us.
Most of us find few things so repulsive as the sentimental gush of insincere avowals of affection. I quit going to a dress shop I really liked because of a syrupy clerk who always addressed me as “Honey.” But many of us offend more seriously by our reluctance to speak our love to those who need to hear that they are loved. It would be interesting to know how many of our acquaintances we know have never heard anyone say to them “I love you.” I think we would be shocked to know how large the number would be. Many of those people would be shocked into shyness if before the day is done we broke out of our inhibitions and said, “You know, I really love you.” How difficult that kind of loving openness is to us!
Yet how empty those words would be if they were not accompanied by acts which reinforce them. We would not long believe those words. But why can we not give both the words and the actions? We don’t need to worry about running out of the supply of love. “You yourselves have been taught by God how you should love one another,” Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers. “Do even more.” Have we already been loving in word and deed? There is Paul’s daily assignment for us in the school of life: DO EVEN MORE.
19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 22 And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.
23 And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.