Author: Ron Graham
We begin now to look at John’s teaching on love.
This will take up two lessons. John’s understanding of love has two main foundations:
Jesus gave us a new standard of love. Love is "an old commandment yet a new commandment" (1 Jn 2:7-8).
The old commandment was to "love your neighbour as yourself". Self was the standard. Jesus changed that. He says, "Love one another as I have loved you". Christ is the new standard. (Matthew 22:39-40, John 13:34).
(a) Love is the essence of the original gospel -"an old commandment which you heard from the beginning" (1John 2:7). "This is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (1John 3:11).
(b) Lovelessness results in death. "We should love one another, not as Cain who slew his brother... Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer... He who does not love abides in death" (1John 3:11-15).
(c) Love assures us of salvation. "We know we have passed out of death and into life because we love the brethren" (1John 3:14). "If we love one another... his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us" (1John 4:12-16).
(d) We cannot love God (and therefore be saved) without loving one another. "The one who does not love his brother... cannot love God... Whoever loves the Father loves the child born of him... we love the children of God when we love God" (1John 4:20 to 5:2).
(e) Lovelessness is inimical to our fellowship with God — we are hostile to God when we lack love. "The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness... the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1John 2:9-11).
Later John writes, "Anyone is not of God who does not love his brother" (1John 3:10). "The one who does not love, does not know God" (1John 4:7-8).
(a) Love is deeds, not talk. Most people would think of love as an attitude, but love is much more about action. "Whoever has this world's goods and beholds a brother in need, and closes up his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? ...Let us not love with word or tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1John 3:17-18).
(b) Love consists in obedience. "For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments" (1John 5:3).
(c) To emphasise keeping God’s commandments does not show a legalistic spirit or a lack of love. Quite the contrary. "Whoever keeps God’s word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected" (1John 2:5).
(d) A judgment about a person's love should be based on that person's performance, not personality. "We know that we love the children of God when we love God and do his commandments" (1John 5:2).
It is not uncommon to hear a Christian accused of lacking love, especially when that Christian expresses anger or hurt, or insists that some wrong be corrected.
A person who claims to have love, and to belong to a loving party, needs to be extremely careful about accusing another Christian of lacking love. It is tantamount to accusing another Christian of being godless, because John says, "He who does not have love does not know God" (1John 4:7-8).
What worse accusation could be made, therefore, than to say that a person is unloving?