The Apostle John is often ascribed as the “Apostle of Love.” The theme of love is a frequently expounded by the apostle in his first epistle. In fact, in 4:7-21 alone, the word ‘love’ is used 25 times. Repeatedly throughout this epistle, the apostle calls for Christians to ‘love one another.’ This is not a foreign concept to us. As Christians, we should know that we are commanded to love one another. Jesus himself said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).” This statement from Jesus follows his demonstration of humility and love through the washing of the disciples’ feet. Christians are the most loved people in the world, but are often some of the most unloving. An unloving Christian is an oxymoron. The two don’t go together (like pineapple on pizza).
The Apostle John calls for Christians to love one another. One of the first questions I ask when I am commanded to do something is “Why?” The second question is usually “How?” How are Christians to be loving? In his book titled Christian Love, the Scottish minister Hugh Binning (1627-1653) presents four practical ways that Christians can demonstrate love to others.
First, charity by all means will avoid offense, and live honestly in the sight of all men. The Apostle Paul writes, “Give no offense to Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God (1 Cor. 10:32).” Binning states, “Charity is not self-addicted; it has no humor to please, it can displease itself to profit others (51).” Biblical love is a love that puts others above oneself. Biblical love is a sacrificial love. Biblical love can be seen by the husband that washes the dishes for his wife and lets her rest, even after he has worked all day. Biblical love can be seen in the father that takes his son to the ballfield after he has labored in the sun all day. Biblical love is demonstrated by sacrificially giving oneself without expecting anything in return. Biblical love does not seek to honor others for a repayment or to manipulate others into doing what you want.
Second, charity ‘follows peace with all men,’ as much as possible (Heb. 12:14). We ought to live peaceably with all men (Rom. 12:18). According to Binning, “since we obtained the mercy to get a peacemaker between us and God, we should henceforth count ourselves bound to be peace-makers among men (53).” If we have offended another, we must make every effort to make peace with that person. This is right. Further, if we have been offended by another, we must initiate peace between us. I know, this is difficult. The world states that the offender should initiate reconciliation with the offended, but the gospel paints a different picture. The gospel shows us that God initiated reconciliation in Christ, even when we weren’t seeking peace with Him. We are not given the liberty of withholding love/forgiveness from others because they have offended us. If anyone had a right to withhold love it would have been God. We have all sinned against Him, yet Paul writes, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). May the gospel motivate us into being peacemakers with others.
Pure in Judgment
Third, charity in its conversation and discourse, is without judging, without censuring (54). The world loves to use Matthew 7 against Christians who call for others to repent of their sins and follow Christ. Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged (Matt. 7:1).” I love what Paul Washer said about this passage. He said, “People tell me ‘judge not lest you be judged,’ but I tell them twist not Scripture lest you be like Satan.” Jesus is condemning hypocritical judgment in this text. Before you confront others in their sin, ask yourself if you are currently guilty of the same sin. Let us not cast impure judgment upon others.
Fourth, charity is no talebearer (55). Proverbs 20:19 states, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore, do not associate with a simple babbler.” Binning states, “some would have nothing to say if they had not others’ faults and frailties to declaim upon (55).” Slander and gossip strike a wound to any man’s heart that can hardly be cured (56). Let us not be guilty of tearing down the name of others in hopes that we build up ours. There are those that think they are innocent of this because they have simply listened to the gossip/slander. However, as Binning states, “to join with the teller is to complete the evil report; for if there were no receiver, there would be no teller, no tale-bearer (58).”
How are we doing? Do we love others for the sake of repayment? Are we withholding peace from others? Do we judge hypocritically? Are we gossips and slanders? If we are guilty of these things, then we are being disobedient to the command of God to ‘love one another.’ Let us pause, reflect upon our relationships and our actions in those relationships, and seek to glorify God in loving our brothers and sisters. May we it never be said of us that we are unloving.
Soli Deo Gloria
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