Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 25 October 21:
3 John 11 – “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”
In the very short missive of 3 John, the author, known in the early church as “The Apostle of Love,” uses the word “love” only twice, but mentions truth seven times to emphasize loving in truth, walking in the truth, working for the truth, and testifying to the truth. The fruit of faith is love, and love is revealed in attitudes, words, and actions. Jesus said, you judge the tree by the fruit the comes from it. Those who truly know and love Jesus are transformed by His love, and it is evident by everything they say and do (or don’t say or do). They don’t continue in unrepentant sin, and when they do sin, they mournfully and humbly turn to God in repentance and then confidently and joyfully act on the grace they have received by sharing grace with others. Christians are continually claiming the promise of 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – is from the Spirit, not something we can create or produce independently from our own human abilities. This fruit is only possible when we, the “branches,” are connected to the “Vine,” Jesus. (See John 15) However, the metaphor of fruit is important for us to consider and is well understood by any farmer:
Farmers know that, though they don’t create fruit, they must cultivate it to produce a good return – they must diligently, over time, work the land. God intentionally created the physical world in such a way that requires our continuous effort to realize its full potential – crops are not self-sufficient in supporting our needs. He intentionally made relationships with Him and with others a necessary part of the equation – we rely on God for the harvest, and we can’t work the harvest alone – “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2) Likewise, God gives us the ability to love, but we must cultivate love in our character by ensuring we remain rooted in Him but then by working out love in what we say and do. Therefore, we are commanded not just to love the Lord with all our hearts and souls (which is essential) but also with our minds and strength (Luke 10:27) – we must have a plan to love and then we must labor in love in order to grow in love, just the way God intended.
The farming metaphor is used throughout the Bible to describe salvation, sanctification, and love, and we are reminded that real love doesn’t just appreciate fruit, it also hates weeds – “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) We must work diligently to remove those things (sins) in our lives which threaten our fruitfulness, and this is a continuous effort. The Bible also encourages us not to be lazy farmers – “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:11-21)
In today’s readings, John contrasts the behavior of Gaius and Demetrius with that of Diotrephes. Gaius had displayed his love and “faithfulness to the truth” along with his commitment to “walk in the truth” by showing hospitality and generosity to “the brothers” who he did not know personally. Contrarily, Diotrephes who “likes to put himself first” is characterized by John as a malicious gossip who refuses to “welcome the brothers.” John then reminds us of what Jesus said: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit…. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” (Matthew 12:33, 35) The first question we must ask ourselves is,
“What do I really treasure?” What we really treasure will be revealed by how we respond to people and circumstances –
- 2 Corinthians 4:6-11 — For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
To experience and enjoy God’s love, we must live in it, use it, and practice it. Jesus said, “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11). Also, 3 John 11 tells us to “imitate good” rather than evil. So, how do we imitate good? Ephesians 5 expands on this concept and would be worthy of review today. (https://esv.literalword.com/?q=ephesians+5)
Unlike Diotrephes who lived selfishly while claiming to be Christian, we are to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” and to submit “to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5) The Holy Spirit gives us the power to abide in Christ, but we must make the decision daily to submit to God and others in true love. The completely sacrificial love lived out by Jesus is our example.
John makes the point that true love is active and obedient. Good deeds and obedience are not the path to salvation but rather the proof or fruit of salvation. Reflecting back on Romans 12:9, we cannot take a casual, careless position on either love or sin like the culture around us does. True followers of Christ follow Christ in word, in deed, and in truth out of love for Him and love for others as His conduits of love.
- 1 John 3:18 — Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
- John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
- John 18:37 — Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 Oct 21: If Jesus walked in your circles today, what would he be like? How would He act? What would He do? What would He say to your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers? Make every effort to imitate Jesus today and reveal Jesus to others today. Truly seek to be His Ambassador and minister of reconciliation. Keep a journal of your experience. Make a note every hour on how the last hour went, each time praying for a closer walk with Jesus and a greater imitation of Him to others. (3 John 11)