Monday, October 1, 2012

Devotion: Do You Really Love Other Believers?

"This is the teaching you have heard from the beginning: We must love each other." 1 John 3:11

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Arguments. Hateful words. Church splits. 

All of those words go against what God has planned for His people. As I have been going through 1 John with the Young People at our church, we have been studying John's words about believers and nonbelievers. It is so easy to be like the world. To expect things to go your way; to lash out when others hurt you. To speak about a "common enemy" behind that person's back. To only give what you think is acceptable.

But God has clear expectations for us. And one of the most important things he calls us to do is to love each other. When you become a believer, God's love is poured into you. Romans 5:5 says, "And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us." Note, the scripture says God's love has been POURED into us FILLING our hearts. If our hearts are filled with God's love, there should be no room for hate, anger, and resentment.

How do we know how to love each other? Well, God taught us. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 says, "We do not need to write you about having love for your Christian family, because God has already taught you to love each other." God reveals to us that we need to love our fellow believers, and he shows this example through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Peter says in 1 Peter 1:22 "Now that you have made your souls pure by obeying the truth, you can have true love for your Christian brothers and sisters."

So before Sunday School this week, Joe and I talked about this particular commandment to love other believers. We both examined our own lives. Do we really love all other believers? And I have to admit, there are some believers I have had a hard time loving in the past. How, then, does that make me any better, set apart, from nonbelievers? On paper, not different at all. But one thing I can say is different is believers and nonbelievers tend to approach this differently. As a believer, the Holy Spirit that has filled your heart with love is the same Holy Spirit that has filled another believer...even the ones you don't necessarily get along with. And if you are at ends with another believer, it should hurt your heart. And you should work at making it right with that other believer.

Nonbelievers tend to respond to others they don't like in 3 different ways:

  1. Indifference. They brush off the other person, making that person nonexistent or unimportant in their lives. They chalk it up to "Well, we just don't get along." or "We have nothing in common, and they are not worth my time." John mentions this aspect in 1 John 3:17 "Suppose someone has enough to  live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God's love is not living in that person." IF YOU ARE A BELIEVER: are you showing indifference to others, especially other believers? Does it bother you when you see someone sitting alone during the church service? Does it bother you when someone has a baby and no one brought her food? If so, what are you doing to change that? 
  2. Anger. They either create a reason to dislike a person, or they focus on a person's behaviors, actions, words. Nonbelievers tend to get upset that person's personality is rubbing them the wrong way. Their response to that annoyance is to talk about that person, to say unkind things to that person, or constantly look for ways to speak out against that person. For example, "Oh, here comes so and so. Look at what she's wearing! Who does that?" Or something along those lines. IF YOU ARE A BELIEVER: Are you participating in that kind of behavior? Are you talking about other believers behind their backs? Are you getting angry at something another believer does that just "drives you crazy"? If so, it's so important to remember you need to make amends with that in your heart and with that person. Johns says, in verse 13, "...do not be surprised when the people of the world hate you." Notice that says "people of the world" and "hate". Not believers. Believers should NEVER hate other believers. 
  3. Hatred. This is where we see Hate Crimes. It's when someone lets that "anger" mentioned above simmer to the point of hatred. And when you are consumed with hatred for someone, your mind can easily justify hateful actions towards that person. And although many people don't go this far, there are various forms of this: pushing someone around, getting in their face, fighting, and even murder. John mentions in verse 12 Cain. "Do not be like Cain who belonged to the Evil One and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because the things Cain did were evil, and the things his brother did were good."  This is a classic example of jealously leading to anger and then eventually to hatred. In Genesis 4, God warned Cain that he needed get control of his actions and just do the right thing. God told Cain in verse 7, "...sin wants you, but you must rule over it." But Cain was already consumed with anger and hatred, and he lashed out at his brother in a fit of rage, killing his brother. IF YOU ARE A BELIEVER, you need to examine your anger towards others. If you are so angry at someone that it makes you want to spit, then you really, really need to get a hold of yourself before you let sin rule over you. 
So when it comes to other believers, 
are you truly loving that other person? 

Is your love emotional, as 1 John 3:14 calls us to be "We know we have left death and have come into life because we love each other. Whoever does not love is still dead." 

Is your love Physical, as verse 16 describes, "This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave his life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters." Although our actual lives may not be called to be sacrificed for the sake of love, are you laboring for your fellow brothers and sisters? Are you building houses for the less fortunate? Are you lifting children in the nursery? Are you playing a game of flag football with the youth? 

Is your love True Caring, as verse 18 says, "...we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring." Don't just tell that new mom you will help her out, but bring her freezer meals and a pack of diapers. Don't just tell someone you are praying for them, but do it right then with them. Don't just give your money for missions, but go on a mission trip. 

Remember: if you are a believer, you must be set aside from the world. Don't let the world convince you to behave like them. Set an example. Love others. ESPECIALLY other believers. 

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