“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”-
1 John 3:11-14
As a result of the new birth, we love.
The verse right before the preceding passage says, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:10
What I’m going to key into is the very last phrase of vs. 10 leading into vs. 11.
“…nor is the one who does not love his brother. FOR this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
As Jesus states in Matthew 7:16, “You will recognize them by their fruits,” there will be outward evidence of an inner transformation in a Christian’s life. I often give my 7th grade girls I teach Sunday mornings the “apple tree analogy”. Say a Christian is represented by an apple tree. An apple tree produces apples. If it produced pears or pineapples, it wouldn’t be an apple tree. Christians are recognized by their fruits. The hearts of genuine Christians (those who are truly children of God) have been transformed, and what stems from that is fruit, evidence.
Our love is evidence of the new birth within us. In this particular instance, John is writing about our love for our brothers and sisters in the church. Our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is evidence of our new hearts.
“We should not be like Cain, who was evil and murdered his brother.”
Okay…so, we shouldn’t murder our brothers and sisters in Christ. Right. thank you Captain Obvious.
Yes, but, look more closely…the point John’s trying to make is found in the next question.
“And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
This is the point John is trying to get at. The root and motive of Cain’s murdering of Abel.
“What John is saying here is not merely that love doesn’t kill a brother, but that love doesn’t feel resentful when a brother is superior in some spiritual or moral way. Cain didn’t kill Abel simply because Cain was evil. He killed him because the contrast between Abel’s goodness and Cain’s evil made Cain angry. It made him feel guilty. Abel didn’t have to say anything; Abel’s goodness was a constant reminder to Cain that he was evil. And instead of dealing with his own evil by repentance and change, he got rid of Abel. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, shoot the mirror.”-John Piper, Finally Alive
So, what does it look like for any of us to be like Cain? I’ll let John Piper continue because he words it perfectly.
It would mean that anytime some weakness or bad habit in our lives is exposed by contrast to someone else’s goodness, instead of dealing with the weakness or the bad habit, we keep away from those whose lives make us feel defective. We don’t kill them. We avoid them. Or worse, we find ways to criticize them so as to neutralize the part of their lives that was making us feel convicted. We feel the best way to nullify someone’s good point is to draw attention to his bad point. And so we protect ourselves from whatever good he might be for us.
Oh, how often I am guilty of this.
In my life it leads to two things which end up being one in the same: jealously and/or despair.
Often when I observe brothers and sisters in Christ who excel in certain areas, or seem to have it “all together”, I feel pangs of jealousy and search for ways in which they falter in some way shape or form, trying to pick them apart to find some area in their life in which I feel I am superior…in order to make me feel better about myself.
John is saying that THAT is absolutely not love. It is far from love. It is poison.
Often times the jealousy leads to despair…feelings that I will never be as ____ as that person, which leads to sin and a terrible undercutting and spatting upon of the Gospel.
Rather love is rejoicing in our fellow brothers and sisters growth and faith, virtue, spiritual discipline, good habits, attitudes…rejoicing in it. Lifting them up. Thanking the Lord for it. Encouraging them. Complimenting. Genuine and authentic joy for them…and in seeing their accomplishments, having that spur you on in your faith, not lead you to despair and paralyzing jealousy.
“Don’t resent it. Don’t be like Cain. Respond the opposite from Cain. Be inspired by other people’s goodness.”- Finally Alive
That is Gospel-transformed new heart rebirth love. That love is contrary to our fleshly desires. That love is radical. That love is scandalous.
Let us love like that.
Love is humble. Love delights in other people’s good. Love doesn’t protect its own flaws. Love takes steps to change them. What a beautiful fellowship where everyone is rejoicing in each other’s strengths, not resenting them! This is what the love of God looks like when the new birth gives it life in the people of God.-JP