Lent Devotional: 1 John 3:11-23

by Jonathan Haefs

1 John 3:11-23 (click here)
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:14-16)

How do you know that you love Jesus?

John seems to think that one of the greatest evidences of love for Christ is loving his Church! “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.”

As if that statement weren’t strong enough…John goes on to say that the opposite is true. If we do not love our brothers and sisters in Christ, but harbor hatred, then we do not have eternal life abiding in us!

John’s logic is made air-tight by his closing argument. The very way in which we know what love is comes from having seen and embraced the glory of the cross where Christ laid down his life for us. If we’ve really seen that and really embraced that, then it becomes our operational definition of love…our love must look the same. Our love must look like a sacrifice of ourselves for others.

If we do not display such sacrificial love, then it must be because we have not embraced it!

John looks at the cross and says that we find ourselves either united with Christ on the cross, or united with those who put him there. We either embrace self-sacrificing love or hatred that is akin to murder. There is no third option.

We either lovingly accept nails piercing our hands and feet, or we bitterly beat them into others.

We either look like Christ, or we look like murders. We embrace love or hate.

If embracing such love sounds impossible…that’s because it is. This can only be done in the power provided by God. He must open our eyes to the glory of the cross so that our hearts may freely embrace the Jesus we finally behold.

He must empower us to live a cross-shaped life of love through faith. We pray for this, yearn for this, and long for this…until we can say with Saint Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.