Christianity 201

November 2, 2020

The ‘Other’ John 3:16

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.
 – 1 John 3:16 NLT

This week’s look at the ‘other’ John 3:16 was prompted by something Ruth wrote for Sunday’s service, placing the thoughts of the passage into verse. But first, we’ll see what others have said about this verse. Because we can’t sing as much presently, Ruth has been teaching the congregation American Sign Language. The phrase this week and our theme today is,

I’ve been forgiven because of Jesus’ cross.


Many believers like to focus on the love of Jesus because they think that this will cause unbelievers to get saved but they prefer to allow Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to be side-lined in a blurry background, in case it offends or puts the unbeliever off the Christian faith!

But the shed blood of the incarnate Son of God Who was born into His own creation, and the immutable love of the eternal Father are inseparably interwoven and irrevocably united together.

It was love that caused the almighty God to send His only begotten Son into the world to become the sin-sacrifice for the entire race of humanity and it was love that caused the Lord Jesus Christ to lay down His life for us. It was love that caused the Lord Jesus to be crucified on a cruel cross — willingly, so that all who believe on Him might not perish but have everlasting life…  [click the link above for more commentary]

David Bartlett at

…Here we glimpse the depth of the gift and the gravity of the demand. Christ gives unconditional love for us, even to the point of death. And he demands our unconditional love for each other, even to the point of death.

Yet, as preachers so often do, the preacher who writes this epistle tries to show what love to the point of death might mean, not just at the extreme moments of sacrifice, but in the daily give and take of the loving life.

Concretely, such love means charity. “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help?” (1 John 3:17) … [click the link heading this section for more on verses 16-24]


In contrast to the person who hates or murders (1 John 3:15), the ultimate sign of love is to lay down one’s life for others. Jesus gave the supreme example of this kind of love by giving His own life on behalf of the sins of the world (John 3:16; Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is the ultimate example of how we ought to live our lives (John 13:15–17).

But what does it look like to lay down our life for the brothers? John certainly had in mind more than physical death, though this could certainly apply. Verses 17 and 18 add additional details about how to help others in need, and to show that God’s love abides in us (1 John 3:17). This includes helping those in need through actions and truth (1 John 3:18). God desires believers to both know the word and live it out (James 1:22), not merely to “feel” love and not act to benefit other people (Matthew 15:4–9). quotes Steven Cole:

…If you’re running short on love, stop and meditate on what Jesus did for you. If the servant who had been forgiven the huge debt had stopped to think about it, he would have forgiven his fellow servant the lesser debt (Mt. 18:23-35)…If you lack love for someone, first make sure that you are born of God. Then, ask Him for it…

Cross-references from

John 10:11
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Philippians 2:17
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

1 Thessalonians 2:8
We cared so deeply that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our own lives as well. That is how beloved you have become to us.

1 John 2:9
If anyone claims to be in the light but hates his brother, he is still in the darkness.

The Cross: Forgiveness – by Ruth Wilkinson

He took my sin in His body,
His breaking makes me whole;
His wounds have been my healing,
The Shepherd of my soul.

My broken self is gone now
No longer am I slave;
Sin cannot command me,
It lies within His grave.

Jesus, my beginning,
My life now and my end;
I thank you Father, Holy Ghost
And Son, my Lord and friend

This is how I learned love:
He gave His life for me.
This is how I must show love:
Like Him, in truth and deed.


May 13, 2015

No Greater Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:26 pm
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Loving as Jesus Loves. A Reflection on John 19:12-15

by Clarke Dixon

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NRSV

When you listen to the Beatles’ song “She Loves You” and then listen to “All You Need is Love,” you will probably be correct in thinking that the word “love” is used to refer to two different things. In our English language the word ‘love’ can have very different shades of meaning and one must sometimes be careful when using it. So when Jesus tells us to “love one another,” what is meant? I can remember a deeply theological discussion in grade five where a friend, with a recent Sunday school lesson in mind, declared that he loved a particular girl in a Christian sort of way. The more he talked though, the more it seemed that not hating her passed muster as a Christian kind of love. So when Jesus tells us to love one another, what precisely does that mean?

Thankfully, Jesus narrows it down for us by saying “love one another as I have loved you.” As we look at the rest of the passage, we will learn what it means to love as Jesus loves.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14 NRSV

First, Jesus loves by laying down his life to serve the needs of others. Jesus is pointing forward to the day that he will literally lay his life down to bring salvation to his people. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” Mark 10:45 NRSV. His death and resurrection brings us reconciliation with God, life with God, indeed, eternal life with God. If we are to love one another as Jesus loves we are to learn to lay down our lives for others, to serve what is in the best interests of others.

And if laying down one’s life for one’s friends is an example of love, how much more should we be ready to lay down our lives for our most significant and covenantal relationships. We might say:

  • No husband has greater love than this, than to lay down his life for his wife.
  • No wife has greater love than this, than to lay down her life for her husband.
  • No mother has greater love than this, than to lay down her life for her child.
  • No father has greater love than this, than to lay down his life for his child.
  • No child has greater love than this, than to lay down his or her life for his or her mother/father.
  • No pastor has greater love than this, than to lay down his or her life for Christ’s Church.
  • No church family has greater love than this, than to lay down their lives for the community.

But does laying down one’s life in service fully express what it means to love as Jesus loves? After all, we can serve others while harboring an inner hatred, resentment, or apathy toward them. Is that really love? Let’s look again to our passage:

13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer . . . John 15:13-15a

Laying down his life is not the only expression of Jesus’ love, he also loves by extending friendship. Only two people in the Old Testament were known as being “friends with God,” these being Abraham and Moses. While God spoke to many people in the Old Testament these two seemed to enjoy a special intimacy with God. Jesus gives intimacy as evidence of His friendship:

15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. John 15:15 NRSV

How thrilling a thing it is to be extended a friendship and intimacy with God! So exciting we ought to remind ourselves that God is also due a proper reverence and respect. In teaching us to pray, Jesus points towards both the intimacy we can enjoy with God, but also the reverence we are to bring. We are to pray “Our Father,” the word in the Greek New Testament being a more familiar and intimate term like “Dad.” But we are also to pray “Our Father in heaven.” Lest we get too chummy this is a reminder of the transcendence of God. He is in heaven. We are not. He is righteous. We are not. He is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. We are not. He is God. We are not. We enjoy an intimacy with God, he extends friendship, yet “the fear of the Lord” is still appropriate.

Having seen what it means to love as Jesus loves, through laying down our lives in serving the needs of others and extending friendship, we can think of the difference it makes to love as Jesus loves.

Think back to New Testament times and imagine that you are a slave owner. And now you are to love your slaves as Jesus has loved you, laying down your life in service to the slave and extending friendship. What a transformation to the master/slave relationship. We have a beautiful example of this in the Bible where Paul encourages Philemon to take back his runaway and thieving slave, Onesimus:

15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother– especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Philemon 1:15-16 NRSV

And think also of the marriage relationship. One’s wife would no longer be thought of as property, but as a friend whom the husband will delight in serving. In fact Jesus’ teaching on love can transform marriages today. In pre-marital guidance courses I point out three different kinds of love, which correspond to three different Greek words. A friendship kind of love, philein, a romantic kind of love, eros, and a committed kind of love, agape. I used to say that marriage can survive on agape love, a commitment to the marriage vows, but will thrive on all three. Now I say that a spouse who has agape love for his or her spouse will actively pursue all three. When I love my wife as Jesus loves, I want her to know that she is my best friend. I also want my wife to know that, though I am not very romantic, all the romance I can muster up is for her and her alone. When a man loves a woman the way that Jesus loves, fidelity to marriage vows is not enough. Serving is important. Nurturing a deep friendship is important. You can forgive me for keeping to a male perspective here, but I must ask: How many marriages across our nation would be transformed if all men became avid followers of Jesus? And how many relationships would be transformed if all people learned to love as Jesus loves, laying down their lives in service, and extending genuine friendship?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NRSV