By our Christlike actions, others see God.
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:17-ESV)
The first bit of this verse, we know love by Christ’s laying down his life, does not “work” for me. There is no specific clarity from that tenet of Christianity. I believe it; I do not struggle with doubt over it; its concept weaves its way through the fibers of my reality. Even so, it remains abstract.
In the last couple of days, I have found myself remembering a situation one of my children had. Too personal to write here suffice it to say that it was very serious. In response, a member of our church came by, and while I don’t know what transpired between my child and this church member I am aware that it was good. That church member unwittingly wrote themselves into my mind that day. A hidden thankfulness lives in my heart over the interaction they had.
Today as I was praying about how to unravel and reweave 3:16 into a personal meaning that story came to mind. “Fine,” said my mind, “I get what that person did. I can see it. It made a difference where I could not. Things have been well for years now. That person had an impact at an important point.” My mind also said, “I don’t need faith for that. I saw it. On the other hand, I did not see Jesus lay down his life for me. Sure, I understand sin, sacrifice, atonement, and the role of Jesus in these things, but understanding is not the same as seeing.”
Then the connection came. “By doing things as this person did for our family, we see God.” In some way what the person did was done from that individual’s humanity, but in other, crucial ways, it was a piece of help; help the way God helps. Satan does not help. God does just as he has recalled to mind the memories he has built for and in me and then coupled them to 1 John 3:16.
Love in actions not words
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 3:17-18-ESV)
Here is the example of charity pulled up and placed into Christ-like love. I mentioned a situation from my home life as evidence of God’s love. Here John uses a negative to motivate unto generosity. If we do not use our means to lift needy fellow Christians from places where they have sunk where is God’s love?
John speaks of the advantaged person as closing the heart. He is not talking about things one is oblivious to, but one’s response to the awareness of other’s needs.
God’s love is to be ready and active in our lives. Times come in our lives when seemingly out of the blue, we learn of a Christian person’s need. Does anything rise-up alongside that awareness? Help? Generosity? Running and hiding: a.k.a. closing the heart? Look at this verse from the Proverbs of Solomon:
4 Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend. (Proverbs 19:4–ESV)
Desertion of the needy is the world’s norm. It is not to be the norm of the Christian. We must not close our hearts blocking away our fellow Christ-followers when it is in our power to act. People see God when they experience help. Just like that church member wrote themselves into my mind we can, should, must respond to the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives to help other people in their times of trouble. Do not desert the needy. Be wise; love beyond words all the way to actions. A confidence in your life with Christ will come there as well.