1 John 3:16-17 (ESV)
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
In the first part of verse 16, we are given the essence of what love really is:
“By this we know love…”
Q: By what? What is “this”?
A: “He laid down his life for us.”
Jesus. Son of God. Anointed One. Perfect. Sinless. Beautiful. Glorious. God in flesh.
Abandoned. Mocked. Beaten. Scourged. Flesh ripped from his body. Crucified.
Jesus on the cross, dying for us, us the ultimate picture of love, and without this, humanity would have no true experience of divine love.
The remainder of verse 16, and verses 17, 18, and 19 expand that fundamental essence of love and gives its natural outworking: Overflow. Love naturally overflows!
What does that overflow look like?
“…we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
How amazing is it that John says, “…he laid down his life for us…” and immediately concludes from that statement that we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
In other words, if we are Christ’s, we ought to do as Christ did.
One demonstration of love is that, just like Jesus, you and I would willingly deny our own physical care to accommodate the need of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, even if that would cost us our very lives.
This is a staggering conclusion that John makes. It left me turning inward. I began to ask myself, “How often does the thought of even possibly needing to give my life for another believer cross my mind?” In all honesty, it never does unless I run across this verse and it causes me to think.
So I thought. And what I thought hit me like a ton of bricks.
Love and sacrifice: Asking too much, or giving too little?
If we should so-mimic our Savior that we ought go to the extreme of dying for our brothers and sisters in Jesus, how could we possibly be unwilling to do something for them that would require less of a sacrifice.
In other words, if the most extreme sacrifice we should ever make for another believer is to die for them, shouldn’t we be able to make any other sacrifice requiring less of us on their behalf?
You and I can give nothing greater than our very lives. That, it seems, is the greatest sacrifice we could make for another person. Therefore, if those who are in Christ should go to that extent if the situation required it, all other sacrifices being less severe, should also be within the realm of “oughtness” as well.
This puts verse 17 into incredible perspective, doesn’t it?
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
Your brother is in need. He’s not asking for your life… just a helping hand. Just a few dollars. Just a friend. A meal. Some time. A smile. [insert need.]
“Oh Father, how meetable are so many needs. You have shown us clearly that following your Son in self-sacrificial love is a beautiful way to treasure him. Yet our brothers and sisters rarely ask us for our last breath. May the overflow of joy in you that would empower us to lay down our lives also move us to glad-hearted, need-meeting generosity.”