“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:16-18).
How do we define the character of a Christian? What is it that sets us apart from the world of non-believer’s? The mark of a Christian, the defining mark of the Christian walk, is that people should be able to see Christ’s character and love in us. The love of Jesus was revealed to us in God’s Word. The love of Christ is the measure of love that each of us should aspire to in our lives. His love is measured by His amazing statement that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). That is the highest standard of love.
Yet Jesus would show His love in so many, many ways. As Jesus prepared to lay down His Life He displayed His love for His disciples until the very end. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1). He knew of His fate. He knew that Judas would betray Him. And yet, “he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:5). He revealed to them of His betrayal to come. He told them that as their Lord and Teacher He was to be an example to them. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14). They were to serve one another as their Lord and Teacher served them. “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:15-17).
The Lord was troubled in Spirit and yet He was still their Lord and Teacher. He would still instruct them and prepare them for when He was to no longer be with them. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
These passages describe the Christian character because they describe the character of Christ. These passages tell us that we need to reflect that character in our daily lives. As Christ loved so are we to love, to reflect His love to our brothers and sisters in the faith. To serve others in our community as Christ attended to the needs of those He came into contact with. In our Christian walk we are to display “the fruit of the Spirit which indwells us [which] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
So how do we even start to reflect the love of Christ in our lives. In 1 John 3:14 we are told that “whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:17-18). In other words, we need to not only talk the talk we need to walk the walk. We need to not only know God’s commands but also to act on them.
We are not only to merely talk about love we are to demonstrate that love though our actions. If we have the capability to meet a brother’s needs, and do nothing to meet that need, then how can we say that we love that brother? How does the love of God abide in us? Think about this – if we cannot divide our bread with a hungry brother or sister, we certainly would not lay down our life for them. Whatever love we may pretend to have is meaningless if we are not charitable and benevolent when there is a need present. We cannot substitute talk for love because talking about meeting people’s needs instead of actually meeting them is meaningless. The individual who has the world’s possessions and yet fails to show any compassion for a fellow Christian in need demonstrates that he or she does not have God’s love residing within.