Summary: Jesus loves us so much, and that means that we ought to love others.

1 John 3:16-24

“We Know Love By This”

By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer

Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA

Humankind has made so many attempts to define love.

Volumes upon volumes of books have been written about it.

Over the centuries romantic love has been the theme of the larger part of all music written and sung.

How many classic plays, novels and movies have, in some way, been based on the theme of love; yet, if we were to ask ten people to define love, we’d be likely to get ten different definitions.

But in our Epistle Lesson for this morning, John gives us the briefest and the best definition of love.

We could not know love apart from God.

God is love.

And if we do not know love; God’s kind of love…

…then we don’t know love at all.

All other affections, no matter what we call them, fall short and incomplete if they are not based on the Love of God.

The Greeks had three words for love.

One “Phileo”, specifically refers to the love between two friends.

It’s where the name “Philadelphia” comes from…

…which means “City of brotherly love”.

Another, “Eros”, refers to romantic love.

It’s from this word that we get “Erotic.”

But then there is “Agape.”

This is a totally self-sacrificing kind of love; asking nothing in return.

It is a love that spends itself completely and unwaveringly on its object. This is the kind of love John is writing about.

We can only know love if we understand that Jesus laid down His life for us.

The eternal Creator of all; the giver of life Himself; the only One who didn’t need to lay down His life at all…laid down His life for us!

The One from whom no one could take life; Who was in absolute control over death and the grave, deliberately laid down His life in payment for our sins…

…so that through Him we might have life.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”…

…and then He laid down His life for those who were hostile to Him…so that we might become His friends!

The redeeming truth is this: The character of the love that brings people into life has been once and for all definitely revealed in Jesus Christ.

Before Christ people had known love such as Jacob’s, David’s and Jonathan’s, and the prophets…

…but until Jesus Christ laid down His life for us the fullness of love was not complete!

Do we understand that Jesus’ love is absolute?

Let’s face it, the modern mind seems to comprehend the love of money, chocolate or Freud better than the love of Christ!

The love of Christ is absolute because it is indistinguishably ‘one’ with the

eternal love of God.

This is Reality!

The fundamental quality of absolute love is self-denial…

…to the point of death for others.

Jesus denied Himself…

…but not for a principle or a cause…

…Jesus denied Himself for us!

The pagan in John’s world could live in heroic self-denial—

…the athlete…

…the orator…

…the warrior.

And likewise, in our day, the scientist…

…the artist…

…the soldier…

…can be capable of great self-denial.

But mere self-denial is not love.

Only when a person surrenders something that has value for his or her own life in order to better the life of another does he or she love.

Jesus’ love is marked by action…

…He laid down His life…

…it’s not defined in terms of reason or emotion.

Emotion is the most unreliable part of our personalities, and if we only love when we feel like it or when we are loved…

…then our love will be irregular and incomplete.

Love is an unwavering attitude toward things regardless of the way we feel.

Jesus’ love is universally understandable.

It speaks to people of every nation, class, and race; and we are called to have faith in the ability and capacity for people to respond to it.

A common sin in the church is the assumption that sacrificial love, for example, has a reality for a foreign missionary that it cannot have for the ordinary churchgoer…

…or that to lay down one’s life has a meaning for some spiritual hero that it doesn’t have for you or me.

But this is completely untrue!

Every Christian’s life is to be an ‘imitation of Christ.’

And only by living in the kind of love that Christ has can we know…

…from the inside…

…the new life that Jesus brings.

We must, at all times, be willing and ready to deny ourselves!

We must be ready…at all times…

…to witness to the good news of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ…

…to make decisions about our lifestyles…

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