“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
~ 1 John 3:18
This letter was written by John, the apostle when he was pastoring at Ephesus. He wrote it when he was an older man and it is warming to see how he refers to his readers (the Church at large) as little children. It is a term of endearment really, using “children” to mean the “children of God” rather than the “children of the devil” (1 John 3:10).
In this little verse 18 John is encouraging his readers to do more than just speak of love. He is encouraging them to put love in action. Reading this little verse in context gives a better understanding of just exactly what John is saying. Take a look:
11For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. 13Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you 14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:11-18)
John gives us some practical ways in which we can “love the brethren”. He equates hatred toward our brother as being a murderer. And then he contrasts that with what God (Jesus) did for us — laid down his life for us. Therefore we ought to be willing to lay down our own lives for our brothers. He tells us that “the world’s good” is basically useless when we see our own brothers suffering and do nothing to help him. I remember John writing about this in the gospel of John, it was when Jesus was talking to his disciples and he said:
33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:33-35)
James talks about our deeds (works) too, he talks about how our works are related to faith. When I read today’s verse from 1 John 3, this is the passage that popped into my mind. I love how James says it:
16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:16-18)
It comes down to this — we love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). When someone needs something like food, clothing, a place to lay their head, etc. And we say “Oh I will pray for you”, these are just empty words. We should rather say “Stay and join us for a meal” or “Let’s take a ride over to the thrift store to find you some clothing” or “You are in town? Come stay with me”. Our brother needs food, clothing and a place to live in addition to our prayers! Put your faith in action. Consider the following questions:
- When you love someone you spend time with them. Are you daily in the Word, spending time with God?
- When you love someone you give when they have need. Do you have some clothing in your chest of drawers or your closet that you can donate to the Salvation Army or local Goodwill store?
- When you love someone you not only feed them physically, you make sure they know the truth of the gospel too — you feed them Spiritually. Who have you talked to about Jesus today?
- When you love someone you want to make sure that they have a place to stay when they are in from out of town. Do you have a spare room that you can offer?
When you love someone you love in thought, you love in word and Love in Deed.
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