In our journey into the light of Christ, nothing is more important than loving one another. Loving others is evidence that we belong to God's family. God is love, He gives us His love, and then we give that love to others. To explain what loving one another looks like, John gives us two contrasting examples: the life of Cain and the life of Christ.
What hate looks like
We can learn a lot about the opposite of love by looking at the life of Cain, who hated Abel and killed him. At first glance that example may seem too obvious -- everyone knows that killing people is unloving. Closer examination of Cain's story reveals attitudes and actions that are more applicable to most people. First, Cain did not act out of faith when making his sacrifice to God. He resented and envied his brother, and those feelings turned into hatred, which turned into murder. John tells us that Cain "belonged to the evil one," and Cain's deep hatred shows us as much.
Hating people usually doesn't start with wanting to kill them. But it may start with jealousy, resentment, and lack of faith. We may not literally want to kill another person, but we may practice their erasure by wishing them gone or by not acknowledging their humanity. John later explains that when we do not love others, we have closed our hearts against them (v. 17). This closed heart is what Cain displays when God questions Cain about his (murdered) brother's whereabouts and Cain replies, "am I my brother's keeper?" The answer to that question, for those who claim to love, is YES -- we are our brother's keeper.
What love looks like
The contrast to Cain's story is Christ's story. Where Cain took a life, Christ gave His own life. While He was still alive, Christ also practiced self-sacrifice by loving the unlovable, no matter what. Where Cain closed his heart toward his brother, Christ gave the very stuff of life out of his own life. Such sacrificial giving is what John refers to when he speaks of giving to one in need. The words often translated into "material possessions" mean the "stuff of life," and that is what we are to give to those who need it. All this giving is concrete, showing us that love isn't primarily a feeling; it's an action.
Questions to Consider:
- In my words, thoughts, or actions, have I closed my heart off to my fellow human?
- Do I let my emotions control who and how I love or do I let the Holy Spirit have this control?
- What actions can I take today to show people Christ's love?