1 John 3:16-18: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
True love between brethren is expressed in actions. Our love is not to be in what we say but what we do. Love only expressed in word is of little value. How can we love in word only? Is our only interaction with fellow Christians at the worship service? Perhaps we say we love others because we know that we are supposed to but, if our hearts were truly examined, would we only find affection, not true love? Love that is in word requires no sacrifice of self, time, or money, demands no action, has no risk of being hurt, and needs no deep involvement with others.
Love that is in deed and truth, true love for our brethren, is on a higher level. It requires action on our part, a show of love. Christ showed His love, not by shouting His love from heaven, but by dying on the cross. We show our love by our willingness to die for our brethren. We may say that we have this love but we must demonstrate it. Consider John’s example: If you say that you would lay your life down for your brethren but you will not give of your possessions to help your needy brother, how does the love of God abide in you? What a profound question! When we think we love our brethren as Christ loved us, we must immediately ask how the love of God abides in us. We must prove it.
John pictures a brother in need and a fellow Christian locking up his possessions by first locking up his heart. If his heart is not with his brother, the resources he has to fill his needs will not be given. Let us not be narrow regarding the needs of the brother. Perhaps the brother has emotional needs; do we lock up friendship, a word of comfort, or a sympathetic ear? If our brother has spiritual needs, do we lock up a gentle rebuke, exhortation from Gods’ word, or a prayer? Maybe the brother does need our worldly goods: a car ride to church or to the doctor, a meal in a time of sickness or bereavement, or financial help. We must unlock our possessions, time, and even our selves and help our brethren. According to Paul, that is why we work: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need,” Ephesians 4:28 (emphasis mine-rfd).