May 1, 2015
1 John 3:17-18
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Remember that time Jesus said this:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Yeah, that’s what John is saying in today’s text.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
Now, let’s remember our banner verse from yesterday, 1 John 3:16:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
In case we were thinking John was talking about martyrdom, he shows us that “to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” can be as simple as sharing with another person in need.
Now, let me point out something I find very interesting about this phrase, “has no pity on them.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a positive feeling about “pity.” In my understanding, pity means to feel sorry for someone. People who need help don’t typically want you to feel sorry for them. They want you to help them. Who wants “pity?”
When I dug into the text I learned the Greek word, “kleise” behind the phrase, “has no pity on them” actually means, “to close up one’s heart.” To close my heart to a person in need strikes me as something altogether different than to have no pity on them.
Further, helping someone in need is not about giving someone some spare change. It’s not an obligatory act. The holy love of God is about compassion, which is a Holy Spirit inspired disposition of the heart that leads to action. The big issue isn’t whether we are helping people in need; it’s whether our heart is truly open to those we are helping. I’ve helped people in need many times in order to make myself feel better, but I can’t say my heart was truly open to them. Know what I mean?
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
That’s it! Love means doing something for another from the deep wellsprings of Christ in us. It’s not just actions nor is it mere truth. Love is a holy compulsion to help others, everywhere, all the time, no matter what. . . so help us God.
John isn’t trying to shake us up. He’s shaking us down. He’s not accusing us but awakening us. This is not about already being there. It’s all about being on the way. According to Jesus, there’s a lot at stake here. Let’s not be afraid of asking ourselves the hard questions. Only the truth will set us free.
J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.