By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:16-18
I don’t have a political solution to the border/immigration crisis, third-world poverty, human trafficking, or the opioid crisis. But I do know that when the poor appear in my path, or when the widow is destitute, or when the children have no parents, or the young women are trapped in human trafficking bondage, and I have some means to help, I must use what I have to express Jesus’ love however and whenever I am able. A Chick-Fil-A gift card, support foster parents, or connections with human-trafficking rescue ministries (to name just a few).
John’s message highlights a two-fold understanding of God’s love and our responsibility to express that love to others. The events surrounding the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus form the foundation of our values and are the basis of our hope. Having received that love, we ought to recognize it as an example. We are to love one another in deed and in truth; mere outward actions are not what God demands.
True love is not just a theological or intellectual concept for followers of Jesus any more than it was a concept for God: true love was seen in Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. These foundation stones of our faith are solid and strong. The Word became flesh. God came into the world in human form, and showed the Father’s true love in real time, and in real peoples’ lives.
If we take these things seriously, we will also take seriously John’s admonition: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). That means that we do not only talk about Jesus, but that we express his love in real and substantive ways.