As those who are loved, we are called to love others, sometimes in ways which are sacrificial

1 John 3:16-24

Are we free to love in a way that is authentic and comes out of our character – or are we still talking about it?

16  This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

“Jesus Christ laid down His life for us” – This is the reference point for true, unconditional love and a clear Bible definition of God’s love for us.

17-18  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Love is about sharing possessions and resources as well, James 2:15–16. Love is ‘the willingness to surrender that which has value for our own life, to enrich the life of another’ (C. H. Dodd)

19-20  This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence:  If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.

This references teaching earlier in this passage about determining not to sin in hatred but rather, uphold God’s way of love. Hatred characterizes the world, whose prototype is Cain and origin is in the devil, is motivated to murder and is evidence of spiritual death, 1 John 3:11-15. Love characterizes the church, whose prototype is Christ and origin is in God, produces self-sacrifice, and is evidence of eternal life.

“Belong to the truth” – or more literally ‘of the truth’, a phrase used by Jesus before Pilate in John 18:37: “I came… to testify… to the truth… everyone of the truth listens to Me.” This is about the love of God being in a person, not a claim or insincere action but out of character that is ‘of the truth’ or authentic. We have rest before the God of truth, if we are of the truth. But if there is a dissonance within us, if we talk it better than we walk it, our hearts will be disturbed and sensing that He who is so much greater knows it all.

21-22 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him.

If we are real before God, who sees and knows everything, we can come into God’s presence and make our requests in confidence and faith

23-24  And this is His command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

The mark of the Christian is believing and loving. Believing and accepting Christ brings new birth and the release of the love of God through the Spirit of God in us. John is helping readers discern who among them have believed and received – who are the ones genuinely born again into a new nature where there is a demonstration of faith and unconditional love. The false teachers, for all their talk, were unchanged.


Being “of the truth” or being real, as we tend to say, is an embrace of both arms. We cannot do it if one hand is holding up a mask of how we would like to be seen. This is also a key to how we “love one another as He commanded us”.

If we are carrying the baggage of unresolved insecurities – fears, hurts, rejection responses, little pockets of unforgiveness of others – these will kick in and make it difficult to for us to relate to others and show the Lord’s love. It will come across as part of our self-interest, rather than sincere.

The call is to lay down our life for others – and that includes laying down the right to retribution or to hold on to hurt.

For reflection or discussion

What is the Lord prompting you to put down (or resolve), so your heart will no longer condemn you?

Also published on Medium.

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