Key Verse: “This is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
—I John 3:11, New King James Version
I John 3:11-24
IN OUR KEY VERSE APOSTLE John takes the reader back to the “beginning,” when Jesus instructed his disciples on the principles of Christianity. “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, Where I am going, you cannot come, so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”—John 13:33-35, NKJV
This is the most potent of Jesus’ commands to his followers. Our love for the brethren is not optional, and it must be demonstrated by actions. Peter adds to the emphatic nature of our Lord’s command, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” (I Pet. 1:22, NKJV) Our love for one another must not be lukewarm, nor begrudgingly given. It must be fervent, and come from a pure heart.
Apostle Paul offers a clue as to how “all will know” we are Jesus’ disciples if we love one another. He states in his epistle to Titus: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, … poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:3-6, New International Version) Before coming into Christ, a worldly spirit ruled in our hearts. We often exhibited envy and malice. When hated by others, we returned hatred to them. Now, the beauty of the Gospel reigns within our hearts, and we exercise the privilege and power of showing divine love to all—friends and enemies.
These words from Jesus’ sermon on the mount still ring with profound truth: “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”—Matt. 5:43-48, NKJV
What wondrous improvements would be wrought in the world if all mankind could now love their enemies, bless those who curse them, and pray for those who persecute them. Though this is not now the case, we anticipate the days soon coming when, as the Scripture says, “They shall not hurt nor destroy” in all God’s holy kingdom, for the earth shall be “full of the knowledge of the Lord.” (Isa. 11:9) What better way to prepare for this time than to love our Christian brethren in sincerity, and let it overflow to all whose lives we touch each day.