The discussion of loving one another continues here as we move into the third chapter of 1 John. Loving one another does a great deal in the struggle against idolatry. The struggle of idolatry is alive and real for the people that John is writing to, and because of this, John addresses the continual practice of idolatry and sin. He tells us that anyone who makes a practice of sinning has not been born of God. In fact, people who do this are not workers of God, but of Satan. This is why John expands on what it means to love one another.
He gives a plain example. If anyone that has something that supplies for the needs of believers but does not give it, then the love of God is not alive in that person. So then, that person ought to caution themselves not to become like Cain, because Cain murdered his brother. No one who murders has eternal life dwelling in them. This simply means that when we hate our brothers, we are not living as God commands. To live as God commands, we have to live our lives destroying our habitual sins. If we have a problem with a brother or sister, we need to go out of our way to get to know the person that God made. If we know that God loves all people we must do the same. If this involves forgiving people who have hurt us or spending more time with the people that we don’t like, we have to be praying that God would change our hearts. Only God can teach us to truly love others, but we need to put ourselves in situations that give him opportunities to work in us. Because of this, we must recognize that there is a connection between being a practicer of lawlessness, or one who makes a habit of sinning, and loving one another. If habitual idolatry is the problem, what is the solution?
The solution that John reminds us of is the intimate connection between believers that is given to us by God in his payment for our sin. There is a strong connection in the body of Christ. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12 that believers are part of a body. Everything that happens in this body affects its other members. If a person is in sin, then we should work to do our best to restore that person. To love one another is to love each other the way that Christ loved us, even unto death. We all have people in the body of Christ that we do not get along with. Due to this reality, I am always reminded by God that if I do not like someone, perhaps it is time for me to spend time with them. Welcome those who rub you the wrong way to coffee and get to know them. Perhaps you simply do not know them. Or perhaps you need to forgive them. Christ died to forgive us of our sins. If Christ died for our sins, perhaps we could go out of our way to forgive others as well. If this kind of love is the goal how do we get there?
First, we must start to get filth and bad habits of sin and idolatry out of our lives. We have to pursue righteousness through Christ first, before we can start to change. Without Christ there is no forgiveness of sin. How would one go about pursuing Christ? How can one who has put their faith in Christ continue to walk with Christ? When putting our faith in Christ how do we continue to grow?
One can start to pursue Christ simply by getting to know Him through His word. If we pursue him through his word, we can know where he might move us or place us to know Him more. James 4 encourages us not to make our own plans to “do this or that” but to pursue what we do in our lives by saying, “Iif the Lord wills, we will do this or that.” When we know what God desires for our lives, we can start to walk like He walked, as like John says here in 2:6.
Think about it this way:, if our idolatry problem and idol is stealing people’s things, we cannot can’t expect to simply say that we will never do it again and accomplish that goal. We have to get rid of things in our lives that tempt us to steal and basically reprogram ourselves to be more like Christ. If we steal, we need to learn how to work with our hands and earn a proper living (this is what Paul writes in Ephesians 4:28). We have to remove opportunities for us to steal and create accountability with the body of Christ. Confess your sins to trusted friends, and ask them to pray for you. If certain people tempt you to steal, get them out of your life. If going to certain stores tempts you to steal, set up your life in such a way that you’re able up to avoid those places. God works in mighty ways and does not want you to be practicing sin sin—he wants you to repent.
If we kill our habits of sin by first pursuing Christ’s righteousness and reprogramming ourselves to actively avoid pitfalls, then we can become more like Christ, because God helps his Children.
This is what John is saying in 1 I John 3. First, we are called as children of God. Second, we are not children of God if we practice lawlessness. To not practice lawlessness, we have to love one another. So then, let us move forward, by starting to take things out of our lives that cause temptation and opportunities to turn away from Jesus, and instead, start to pursuing God.