“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers… Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:16, 18
I don’t know about you, but I’ve memorized John 3:16 many times. I’ve heard songs about it and learned several different versions of it. If someone starts saying, “For God so loved the world,” I can finish the verse without thinking about it. It’s one of the most iconic and often quoted verses for Christians.
It’s great because it basically sums up the Gospel for us. God loved the world a whole lot. He sent his son to die for us. If we believe in Him and accept his sacrifice, we can have eternal life with Him. Done. Something I found recently is that 1 John 3:16 is like a throwback to John 3:16. It’s a reference to the earlier verse. John is saying, “You’ve seen that love, now go and show it to other people.”
I can’t get over how awesome that is. And verse 18 expounds on the idea, telling us that loving others is more than telling them that we love them. It’s using our actions to show it. Man, I get excited just thinking about it. We know how much God loves us because He showed it when Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.
Now He’s asking us to show that same love to each other. We can’t give ourselves up in order for someone else’s sins to be forgiven, like Jesus did, but we can love others sacrificially. Your little sister needs help with her math homework? Give up some of the time you’d normally spend watching TV to help her. One of your teammates hurt herself and has a cast on her leg? Offer to help carry her books. Your mom is running late and hasn’t started making dinner? Offer to set the table. Your best friend is sick and missed a couple days of school? Take her homework over to her house and explain the concepts she missed.
All of these are little things but they’re the beginning of learning how to love sacrificially. Once we get into the habit of giving of ourselves to help others and show them God’s love, it will start to come naturally. We don’t love others because they love us too. We don’t love others because we’re going to get something in return. If God loved us like that, we’d still be lost and far away from Him because we have nothing to offer him.
He doesn’t love us like that though. He loves us in spite of our weaknesses, or the times we mess up. He loves us unconditionally, willing to sacrifice his son so that we could have a relationship with him. It is hard to love other people sacrificially. There will be days when we don’t want to be selfless and days when it’s hard to love the people around us. But with God as our example and our help, we can love like He does, not just with our words, but with our actions which shows that we understand God’s love.