2014 堂议会信息April 27, 2014, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (1 John 3:11-24) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: 1,2,3 John
Preached at a Combined Service service
Sermon on 1 John 3:11-24
We’ve spent 5 months running through the gospel of John. We couldn’t cover everything, but one topic we’ve continually examined is the identity of Jesus. Jesus is Light. Jesus is Life. Jesus is Love. I can imagine these are the 3 very powerful words that John wants to repeatedly emphasize to his church. Yet, concept is one thing, but to practice it is another. My difficulty in understanding John comes from the tension when these words are put together in practice. For example, Light and Love. Light seems to speak about who is right and who is wrong. The one in the light is righteous, but the one in darkness is in sin. But when John talks about the Light, he is also talking about Love. So while he is giving out his fierce judgments and condemning his opponents into darkness, he is also encouraging his church to practise love. This is the tension between Love and Light. Adding on a third concept of Life makes things worse. John says “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light”. So loving is living. But in today’s passage “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.” So is Love about living or dying?
This is where the letters of John come in very handy. While the Gospel of John is about revealing Jesus, the letters help us understand how these concepts are put into practice in church life. I believe a lot of the tensions arise because of misconceptions about the proper meanings of Light, Life and Love. Today, I will use a passage from 1 John to clarify these concepts hopefully once and for all.
When we think about Love, we often associate it with the affectionate feeling. While this is not totally wrong, it does not bring out the full nuance of John’s idea of love. John understands love as fully actualized by Jesus laying down his life for us. In John 10 where Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd laying down his life for his sheep, he says “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest.” So love as described in John, must be interpreted in light of Jesus’ demonstration of love. And it is a life-giving love. It is a love where life is given from the giver, and a love that life is enriched for the receiver. It is a love that entails life sacrifice for the lover, and a love that entails life restoration for the beloved. This is why John says, “let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” A life-giving love cannot be expressed verbally alone. The life-giving process must be done through the act of sacrifice. This is what John means by Love.
To fully understand life-giving love, next we have to understand Life. When we think about Life, we think about staying alive. Well, the life that John is talking about has little to do with making sure that you continue to breathe and your heart continues to beat. He says “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” For John, this transition from death to life happens even while you are still alive. You could be living but you are in death! Why? Because life is not just to survive, it is to live with purpose and meaning. For Christians, life is living in a healthy relationship with God and with others in a community.
This is why John draws the parallel between Cain and Jesus. When you hate someone, that person is dead to you and you are dead to the person. You do not share your life with the person and you refuse to partake in the life of the person. When God favored the sacrifices of Abel’s over Cain’s, Cain ended his relationship with his brother with murder. He became a restless wanderer, a loner never finding peace with others. Ironically, after the hate-murder, Abel is in Life but Cain is the one in Death. On the other hand, Jesus in his act of love continues to live in those who love him. His Spirit lives in us and we are in union with him. Cain shows us what it means to be dead even though he is the murderer and not the murdered. And Jesus shows us what true life is even though he gave up his life.
So, what is life-giving love? To a person in need, death does not just come in the form of starvation from lack of food or sickness from the lack of shelter. Death is already there when a person feels injustice and alienation, thinking that nobody senses or bothers about his existence. This is why John says that the person with material possessions must exercise compassion. You are not just giving things for the person to live on. You are also giving care and attention that makes life worth living. That is life-giving love.
Needs go beyond material possessions. It is also about relationship-restoration. For John’s church, they felt lost and heartbroken because of the separation and conflict with some members of the church. They might be angry at their betrayal. They might be vengeful against them. If these things consume them and hatred defines their identities, that is a road towards death. John with his pastoral care is guarding their faith. He tells them to use love to overcome hate. He is giving them a true purpose to live on. That is life-giving love.
In our community, some are struggling in their ministry. Spending time to support and encourage them breathes life into their efforts. That is life-giving love. Some come into the church from dysfunctional families, from broken marriages. Our acceptance and willingness to listen gives them a life-line so that they can pull themselves out. That is life-giving love. The truth is that you have to share your life in order to love, and that often means being vulnerable and subjected to criticisms. But we don’t have a choice to live alone. At least, not a man who is truly alive. You need to love and be loved to live out a life. The world can be a harsh and dangerous environment making the act of love really difficult. The inability to love is actually a sign of death creeping in. The church in providing a safe and moral place to love and be loved allows a person to live to the fullest. The church is the people for whom Jesus gave his life. That is life-giving love.
After addressing Love and Life, I now want to address the concept of Light. Brothers and sisters, when you were in the world and you thought that life was about self-satisfaction and insisting on your rights, you were in darkness. When you were more concerned about carving out your own territory against others, you were in darkness. When you were jealous of others, hated others who were different, criticized people, you were in darkness. But now, in light of Jesus, in light of what is life-giving love, you are now in the light. John says, the truth of this life-giving love is seen in Jesus. The truth can also be seen in you. It is seen when the church lives out the life-giving love.
This is light. It is more than just being right or wrong. Being in the light is to experience the reality of life-giving love. You are enlightened when you see what life is about when you accept the love of Christ and when you exercise this love. If you choose to reject this love and to hate others, it is going back into darkness. There you experience wrath, bitterness and self-centeredness and that is death. You also live in fear and doubt because you have a broken relationship with others, and you have a broken relationship with God. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be living in the Light. The action of life-giving love is a real experience so you know that you are in the light.
As a Christian who has experienced Jesus Christ, you have his command, “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another.” This may sound like two things, but it is the same thing. To believe in the name of Jesus means to accept his Lordship. It means being willing to be his disciple, and that is a disciple that loves as Jesus did. To live a life that is life-giving. This is something you can choose to exercise and something you can choose to experience.
然而，我们的牧养，我们要的生命改变，绝对少不了最关键的元素：那就是爱。然而教会常以为爱就是大家和和气气，以和为贵。什么都无所谓，什么都任由他。保罗不是说：凡事包容，凡事相信，凡事盼望，凡事忍耐（林前13：5）。不！这不是爱。这是溺爱。保罗，耶稣，天父都看不到这样的爱。他们都是有管教，有责备，有要求的。你要宠坏孩子，你才这样。你要宠坏教会，你才这样。这样的爱不是牺牲的爱，因为你不用管，不用做。这不是爱。难道是保罗错了？不是。问题是用这样的翻译词句容易被人曲解，放在一起更容易被误会成溺爱。原文更明确的翻译应该是：爱决不放弃支撑，决不放弃信心，决不放弃盼望，决不放弃。(never tires of support, never loses faith, never exhausts hope, never gives up.)这样的爱才真正永不止息。看出不同吗？一个是纵容的爱，一个是对人决不放弃他们生命改变的爱。这才是圣经里面我们常看到保罗，耶稣，天父的爱。所以，我们需要坦诚的氛围，而我们愿意勇敢地彼此挑战，彼此激励。愿这六个牧人价值观成为我们每个人的负担，我们共同来完成神托付给我们的使命。
1 John 3:11–24 (Listen)
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of 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 surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.