This week we are going to be looking at 1 John 3: 11-24. Today we’ll be looking at the World of the Text for the first portion of this passage, verses 11-17:
11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Today we see our passage start off in an interesting place, by referencing Cain. It almost seems like 1 John goes off into left field when out of all the things that he is talking about, suddenly Cain enters in. But here’s the thing with Cain and why he pops in here and will pop in throughout the Bible in different places is that Cain is seen in the Bible and by the Early Church and by the Early Church Fathers as a model for those who disbelieve. He is, for lack of a better word, an icon of what disbelieve looks like. It was his disbelief in God, God’s love, God’s provision and grace that caused him to give an offering with a wrong heart and that then caused him to resent his brother and ultimately murder him. It was his disbelieve and disobedience that was the ultimate cause of that murder.
So, his actions and disbelief become a “type” of those who disbelieve, a model, an example. Those who disbelieve become in many ways the children of Cain and their steps will lead to murder, as we will soon see from the text.
We see that one of the ways that we “know” that we are a Christian is that we have love for our siblings, in a way that Cain did not. As a Christian, my heart should be filled with love of God and love for my brothers and sisters. That love within us is proof of God’s grace within me. However, if we hate our sibling, then we are following the same path of Cain. If we love our siblings, that shows we are walking with God. If we hate our sibling, it shows we are not.
This passage shows us, in the end, our actions do not save us, but they show us who we are. Our beliefs and our identity are shown by our actions. If we do not have compassion for our siblings, how can God’s love reside in us?
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