Love is not primarily a feeling which makes us feel good. It is a deep emotion which compels us to complete acts of self-sacrifice, so that the person we love can receive the best we can give. The ultimate act of love is to surrender our lives so that others may live. Jesus said,"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13). He proved that by accepting the punishment of our sin when He died on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).
Not only did Christ's dying exemplify love, He also defined it. Love without the giving of ourselves, is not love at all. So John described the marks of authentic membership of God's family (in contrast to the false teachers and their followers). He expected to see genuine love between brothers and sisters in which self-sacrifice was normal. Although some believers were killed in physical persecution (most of the apostles died violently), for most Christians their love was shown in providing for other people's physical needs.
This passage is clear: Christians should be identified by their practical love. John then says that if we refuse to share with others with whom we meet to worship, when we have what is needed, how can we claim to be in God's family?
Words are cheap but love is costly. James, the brother of our Lord wrote, "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:15-17). The challenge is an everyday reality test for every believer. How real is your love?
© Dr Paul Adams