If we claim to love God, then our lives should reflect a love for His children, that is, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The good news is that God enables this love for others by His Spirit, and Christ has given us the ultimate demonstration of love by laying down His life for us. In this sermon from 1 John 3:11–24, David Platt urges us to reflect on God’s love and then demonstrate this love in the way we serve others. This kind of selfless love is a mark of every true child of God.
On to what matters for eternity, if you have a Bible—and I hope you do—let me invite you to open with me to 1 John 3. It is good to be together across Washington around God’s Word. We are halfway through our journey through the book of 1 John, which means we are halfway through memorizing 1 John 1 together. If you are visiting with us or have missed recent weeks, we’re trying to memorize one chapter of the Bible together, one verse a week. This is week five, so we’re about to try to say these five verses together. Are you ready? All right, here we go.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Well done, including correcting me! I was talking with a couple in the lobby after the first gathering who are visiting with us from Arizona, right near the border of Mexico. They are totally tracking with us. They had all five verses memorized. So if they are doing this in Arizona and commuting from there, then we should be able to keep going with this all the more. We’re past the halfway mark, so it’s all downhill from here.
I hope that along the way you’re not just learning words, but that they’re soaking in. “That which was from the beginning…” This is not a new message—it’s been around forever. “We’ve heard it and seen it”—this isn’t just made up out of thin air. “The Word of life”—just let that phrase soak in. We have life forever. “God is light”—He’s perfect. There’s nothing in Him that is dark in a world of darkness. That’s good news to know: God is perfect light. On and on and on.
We have a lot of ground to cover today.
I want us to pick up where we left off last week. In the beginning of 1 John 3 we’re considering what it means to be a child of God. What does it mean to say, “I am a child of God”? To have God as
your Father? The essence of the Christian life is to know, enjoy, walk with, pray to and worship God as Father.
Right after John talks about that in the beginning of 1 John 3, he immediately starts talking about our love for other brothers and sisters in Christ. Look back at verse ten, where we left off last week: “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
Here’s the picture I want us to see today: love in the family reflects the love of the Father. In other words, when a father loves his children, and those children experience and enjoy that love and live in that love, then they will reflect that love toward one another.
I mentioned last week that my dad died unexpectedly years ago. I have a close relationship with my older brother and my younger brother and sister, and it’s undoubtedly because of the love my dad and mom showed us. My younger brother got married a few weeks ago and my dad was not physically present, but his love for us was evident in the love we shared with each other.
In a sense, this is a picture of the church. People can’t see God the Father physically here, but they can see His love on display in His family. This is the church we want to be, according to 1 John 3. This is what I pray for us as a church.
The church we want to be: captivated by God’s love for us
First, I pray we would be captivated by God’s love for us. We want to be a people who are overwhelmed by God’s love for us, in a 1 John 3:1 kind of way: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” I look around this gathering right now and we include some pretty different people. We live in different parts of the city. We live different lives. We have different backgrounds. We come from over 100 different nations. We have different personalities. We have different jobs. We go to different schools. We are different ages and stages of life. We have different problems. We have different political positions. Some would say our political positions are our problems. Regardless, we are different people.
But one thing brings us together each Sunday: we are children of God. We’re loved by God as His sons and daughters. This is why we never look to any of those other things to bring us together. What brings us together is we’re children of God. His love unites us so that we would be a people captivated by God’s great love for us.
The church we want to be: compelled by God’s love for others As a result of this, I pray that we would be a people compelled by God’s love for others. We heard last week that 1 John 3:1-10 talks about us being children of God, captivated by the love of God. That’s the first part.
Now I want us to read verses 11-24 and I want you to see this theme of love for others. Let’s start at 1 John 3:11:
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 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. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 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. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
Did you hear that? Throughout this passage, love in the family, love for one another, is intended to reflect the love of the Father. When you think about it, this has been the emphasis from the beginning. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, how did He respond? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30). “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
He tells His disciples in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is how people will know you’re a follower of Jesus. It’s not because you say you’re a Christian or because you go to church. They will know you’re a child of God if you have love for one another. This is why John—the same disciple who recorded Jesus saying that—is now saying in this letter to the church, “If you don’t love one another like this, there’s reason to question whether or not you’re even a child of God.” That’s because love in the family reflects the love of the Father.
So specifically as McLean Bible Church, spread out across this city, God has designed us to be known by our love for each other. That’s what we need to be known for. People will know we are followers of Jesus and children of God the Father when we are laying down our lives in love for others. We should not just be known for teaching or preaching the Bible. That’s important, but that’s not what Jesus said in John 13. He said, “They’ll know you’re My followers when you’re loving each other in the same way as I have loved you.”
The contrast we need to see
What does that mean? How do we love like this? John answers this by pointing us to a contrast we need to see between hate and love, starting in 1 John 3:12 and going all the way to verse 18. There’s a lot of confusion in the world about what hate is and what love is. So let’s see what the Bible says about how God defines them.
Hate originates with the devil. John goes all the way back to Genesis 4, when Cain murdered his brother Abel. The Bible says Cain was “of the evil one.” That’s a reference to the devil, who is the author of sin in Genesis 3. First John 3:8 says that the devil has been sinning from the beginning. Jesus says of the devil in John 8:44 that he was a murderer from the beginning. The devil is the origin of hate, which the Bible basically defines as selfishly seeking another’s harm.
Why did Cain murder his brother, according to 1 John 3:12? Because Cain was evil and his brother was righteous, His self-centered jealousy led him to harm his brother. The ultimate example of hatred—the desire to harm someone else—is Cain taking the life of another. A person’s life is his most precious possession, so to take it from him is the greatest sin we can commit against him.
But remember what Jesus taught back in Matthew 5:21-22, in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to
judgment.’” Hatred is not just an outward action like murder; it’s an inward attitude of anger toward another person. The Bible beckons every one of us to examine our hearts and ask, “Is there evidence in us of anger toward others? At home, in our workplace, in our community, in the world around us? When we think about certain groups of people, do we have a hatred that is the opposite of love for others?” The Bible also beckons us to repent of that.
Now don’t miss the everyday effect of hatred. Go to 1 John 3:17 where John writes, “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?” The everyday effect of hatred is indifference that leads to inaction. Put this together. We may not murder someone. We may not even be angry toward someone. But if we see another in need and we’re able to meet that need, yet we choose to close our hearts against them, that’s not the effect of God’s love. That is the effect of hate. It’s not just seeking another’s harm but being content to do nothing about another’s harm.
The Bible says this is not from God the Father. This is evidence of spiritual death. It’s evidence of a lack of God’s love in the heart, which is why John says back up in verse 13, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” Remember, the way John uses the term “world” is a picture of a system set up against God, His Word and His ways. He says in verse 14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”
We see all kinds of evidence of hate and hurt in the world around us. I read an article recently about the rise of hate groups in our country, even over recent years, particularly along racial lines. The Bible says, “Don’t be surprised, because absent the love of God the Father, hate is the result.” “But,” John says, “not with you. Not with the church. The church should be different.”
This is what was so convicting earlier this year when we looked at racialization. We saw that the church was actually more racially divided than the world. That should not be so. It must not be so. We can’t be indifferent to that. We work to see that changed, because followers of Christ who know the love of the Father are different—not just on issues of race, but in every area of life.
See the contrast between hate and love. The Bible says love originates with God. First John 3:16 makes it clear that we know love because of God. In a couple weeks we’ll get to 1 John 4:7-8, which says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God…Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God is the Author, Creator and Originator of love. Love emanates from Him. So what is love? Well, instead of selfishly seeking another’s harm, love selflessly seeks another’s good. The key word there is “selflessly,” because we’ll often seek someone’s good if we think that’s going to bring good to us. That’s how the world loves.
How do we love in a way that is totally selfless? That doesn’t involve anything coming back toward us? How do we love totally focused on the other person? I think about Jacob DeShazer, one of Doolittle’s Raiders. He was in a Japanese POW camp for five years, then he came to Christ. He later went back to Japan to serve as a missionary the rest of his life. He even reached out to his former guard who tortured him. This is love. This is Christian, Christ-like, selfless love. It’s not that someone warranted this kind of love or deserved this kind of love.
We don’t ask who deserves it; we just show love. It’s exemplified in the ultimate example, not of Cain, but of Christ Who sacrificed His life for others. We know what love is because Jesus “laid down his life for us” (John 3:16).We said earlier that a person’s life is his most precious possession. The greatest harm you can do is to take that person’s most precious possession, their life. So what is the greatest good you could do for someone else? Give your life for them. This is what Jesus has done. I know some of you are here because you’re visiting with a friend or family member, or maybe you’re just exploring Christianity on your own. Some of you are thinking through what you believe and what your beliefs mean for your life. I want you to know that we’re really glad you are here. You are always welcome here. And I want you to hear in 1 John 3:16 the essence of Christianity. This is how we know what love is. The Bible teaches that every one of us has sinned against God. We’ve all turned aside from God’s ways to our own ways. It looks different in every one of our lives, but we’ve all turned from God, Who created us, to ourselves.
As a result, we are separated from God. Because He is good, holy and just, we deserve judgment before God. The Bible teaches that the payment for sin is death, but God loves us so much that He has sent His Son Jesus to pay the price of sin for us. That’s what the cross is all about. Jesus went to the cross, and though He had never sinned, He chose to die to pay the price for sin for you and me. Then three days later He rose from the dead. No one else in all history has conquered sin and death, so that anyone—including you—who desires to be forgiven of their sin can put their faith in Jesus today. God will forgive you of all your sin and restore you to a relationship with Him for all of eternity. You can have eternal life with God by putting your faith in Jesus and receiving God’s love for you.
You ask, “Well, don’t I have to do something? Don’t I at least need to attend some classes?” No, no, no. It’s all be done for you. Human religion is built around what we can do for God, but the whole point of the gospel is that God has done this for us, out of love for us. You can know what love is because Jesus Christ has laid down His life for you. We invite you to receive His love today. That is the supreme example of love.
Then how does that love play out in our everyday lives? Well, instead of indifference and hate that leads to inaction, the everyday effect of love is compassion that leads to action. It’s the opposite of hate. Instead of closing your heart to your brother in need and doing nothing, you open your heart to your brother in need and do something about it. Verse 18, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” We don’t just talk about this—we do this.
Verse 16 says this is what we ought to do. Followers of Jesus should have compassion in our hearts when we see others in need which leads to action on behalf of those in need. When we do this, it is evidence of spiritual life in us. Again, verse 14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.” Notice that does not say, “If you love people, you will earn eternal life.” It actually says, “If you love people, you will show that you have eternal life.” That’s a huge difference. Love for others doesn’t earn eternal life. Love for others is evidence that you have eternal life. Sacrificial, selfless love is evidence of spiritual life inside you which is exactly what John says next in 1 John 3:19.
The confidence we now have
Now we move from the contrast we need to see between love and hate to the confidence we can have as children of God, as sons and daughters of God, as the church. First John 3:19 and following teaches three main things:
- God enables us as His children to love like He loves. Verse 19 says, “This is how we know we are of the truth.” Verse 20 says, “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.” What does that mean? There is actually a lot of debate among biblical scholars about exactly what that means, so after spending lots of time studying this passage this week and wrestling with it, here’s my best attempt to summarize what verses 19 and 20 mean.
We do not naturally have hearts that are inclined to love selflessly, like we’re seeing here. We’re quick to hate. We’re quick to anger. We are quick to be indifferent toward those in need. We’re quick to turn away. We’re quick to think about ourselves. I think we’re just always thinking, “How is that going to affect me? How’s that going to affect me?” It’s part of having a sinful heart in this world. We are focused on ourselves.
But 1 John 3 is teaching that God is greater than our hearts. God our Father has given us as His children new hearts—hearts that are now inclined to love like He loves. That means when our hearts are prone to hatred or anger or indifference, God gives us supernatural power as His children to love instead, to feel the compassion He feels, to lay down our lives for others in need accordingly. This occurs in a way that is not natural to us. It’s supernatural. It’s God enabling us, as His children, to love like He loves.
I see this all over this church. A couple weeks ago when Mike Kelsey was preaching, during the first gathering I was sitting with my family, just listening to, learning from and soaking in the Word. Then in subsequent gatherings, I had the opportunity to walk through the Children’s Ministry area, going from room to room, and I saw brothers and sisters in this church selflessly serving our kids. One sweet sister in Christ had about 20 third grade girls with 20 third-grade-girl personalities at play. She had her Bible open and was helping them get their Bibles open. I pulled her aside and said, “Hey, I just want you to know you’re the hero here. Anybody can do what I do—but not anybody can do what you’re doing right now.”
Then I went down to our special needs area and met this brother who’s probably in his mid to upper 30s. For the last ten years, he’s been down there week after week after week, spending an hour and a half to two hours every Sunday with a couple of special needs kids. I’m guessing most of us don’t know his name—and probably won’t ever know his name. But he does it selflessly, week after week. I said, “You’re the hero here, brother. This is not natural. This is supernatural.” This is the fruit of God’s love in lives and it’s happening all across this church every week.
Then in this community, I want you to know that this church was nominated in Fairfax County for Top Community Partner, basically meaning a place others can look to for love in this county. I was just talking in the lobby with a government official who was here today, who said, “We just want you to know that this community is different because of this church and because of what you’re doing.” Be encouraged.
Did you know that every week, Title I schools from across the DMV call us with needs they can’t meet? As one simple example, two days ago, we received a call about a single mom with a five-year-old and a six-year-old. She did not have any food for the weekend. Immediately, one of you got that call and within a couple hours you were at her doorstep with food—and not just food, but with arms extended, asking, “How can we love and care for you?” This is the fruit 1 John 3 is talking about.
Let me give you one more example. I don’t know if you remember, but last week I shared different prayer requests that people had sent in. One of them was for a 25-year-old with special needs who was in an elderly home and really wanted to live around people closer to her age. Within five minutes of the service being over, somebody came up to me in the lobby and said, “I know how to help that person. How can we make the connection?” Within five minutes, that need was being addressed in our church.
I could go on and on and on. You are doing this. Be encouraged, challenged and exhorted. We all need to grow in this. Let’s be honest, we’re not prone to love like this in many different ways. Some of us would be glad to serve someone in the community or even serve in the church on Sunday. But when we’re at home and nobody else is watching, for some of us there’s real anger with our spouse or our kids or our parents. We would never treat someone else in the church the way we’re treating our own family.
Then on the other hand, many of us are so focused on caring for our own family and own kids that we aren’t willing to serve others’ kids on Sundays. We can even get so focused on how we can help those who are right around us that we become indifferent to needs beyond the little circles where we live. It’s humbling to take a step back and look at how we spend our money, but when we do, we often can see in significant measure just how focused we are on ourselves. We all need to examine our hearts and ask, “How am I not showing sacrificial love to others?”
We need to say, “God, You’re greater than my heart. I need more of Your heart in my heart. Please change my heart.” Our Father is pleased with that kind of praying. Don’t just feel beat down, thinking how great our sin is. He’s so much greater and we can ask Him to change us. We need to pray this individually, in our families, then also as a church family.
We’re currently working on our budget for this next year and we need to look for more and more ways where we can sacrifice when it comes to our comforts in the church in order to meet more needs within the church, in our city and around the world.
Just a few miles from here, a mom has two children, one of whom has special needs. They are renting a room in a house with other people she doesn’t know. The landlord is likely to seek favors from her if she’s not able to pay him what he wants. She’s our sister in Christ. We cannot be the church if we’re closing our hearts to her needs. What’s more important? That we’re surrounded by comforts in our church once a week, or that she and others like her are experiencing the love of God every day?
This is not just here. I think about believers around the world, some of whom are literally starving. They are our brothers and sisters. We have family in the world right now who are starving. We’ve got to ask if we are going to close our hearts toward them, or are we going to open our hearts toward them? Are we going to respond to them with indifference that leads to inaction, or are we going to respond to them with compassion that leads to action?
As individual followers of Jesus, in our families and together as a church family, let’s ask God to enable us as His children to love as He loves, with supernatural love, in ways that are not normal for us. God, You’re so much greater than our hearts. Produce this kind of love in us, we pray, in a way that increases our confidence before You and our enjoyment of You.
First John 3:21-22 says, “Beloved…”—those who are loved by God and have His love in their hearts—“if our heart does not condemn us” —that is if God’s heart is overcoming our hearts— “we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” You’ve got to follow this. As God enables us as His children to love like He loves, then we will more and more and more live for what pleases Him—which will totally transform our prayer lives. That’s what this verse is talking about.
- God emboldens us as His children to pray for His purposes. God enables us as His children to love as He loves, then He also emboldens us as His children to pray for His purposes. If we love like the Father loves, then we will desire what God our Father desires. Verse 22 says we’ll live for what pleases Him. When we desire what God desires, then we can ask for whatever we desire and know that we will receive it. This is the key to prayer. I’m talking the key to prayer.
Many people hear verse 22, “Whatever we ask we receive from him…” and we immediately think, “I’ve asked God for all kinds of things I haven’t received.” People wonder if that’s some kind of blanket promise. “Does it mean that anything I ask for I’ll get from God?” The answer to that question is obviously no. Just as with any passage, we need to understand each verse in light of its context. This verse is saying the key to prayer is God’s heart overtaking your heart, as His child, in such a way that you love as He loves. You desire as He desires and you live to please Him.
That then transforms the way you pray, because you pray for what you know pleases God. “God, I know that You are pleased when Your name is glorified so I’m praying, glorify Your name in this situation.” Isn’t that what Jesus taught us to pray? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. We
glorify Your name. I know this pleases You, so I’m praying: glorify Yourself in my life.” God is pleased with that kind of praying. We can know He will do it.
When we pray this way, we can know that He will answer: “God, I know You are pleased to show Your power in weakness—and I’m feeling really weak in this situation now—so please, O God, show strength in my weakness.” Or “God, I know it pleases You to give wisdom. I’m in a hard situation and I need it. I’m asking for wisdom and I’m trusting You for it. I know You will give it.”
Now, there are some things we ask God for when we don’t know His will. We might ask God to help us be accepted into this school, or to get this job, or to heal this disease—or any number of other things that are on our hearts. It’s not wrong to ask for those things. It’s good and altogether right to ask for those things. It’s like children asking for something from their dad. But we ask for those things with a heart that trusts our Dad and desires whatever He desires.
“So God, I pray that I might be accepted into the school or that job. At the same time, I’m trusting that You’re my Father and if You know it would be best for me not to go to that school or get that job, then I trust You with that. I want to follow You wherever You want me to be, instead of where I want to be. I desire whatever You desire. I know You’ll lead me in what is best.” That’s confidence in prayer.
“God, I pray—I’m pleading and asking—that I will be healed of this disease. I’m pleading that You’ll heal my wife or my husband or my child or my parent of this disease. Yet as I’m asking for that, I’m trusting that You are my Father, that You are a good Father Who always knows what is best. I want You to be glorified more than anything else. So if You will receive greater glory by sustaining and strengthening and satisfying me—or him or her—in this disease, then I want that. I want whatever You want.”
God emboldens us as His children to pray for His purposes, because we’re driven by what is most pleasing to Him and we’re driven with trust in Him. We know we’re the child here and He’s the Father. We’re imperfect children, but as we saw last week, He’s the perfect Father. That means we can trust Him completely, far more than we can trust ourselves. Realizing you are a child of God totally transforms how you pray and the confidence you have when you pray.
- God empowers us to live as His children by His Spirit. Follow this progression. As His children, God enables us to love like He loves. Then He emboldens us to pray for His purposes. Finally, God empowers us as His children to live by His Spirit. At the end of this passage, in 1 John 3:23-24, we read a beautiful summary of the Christian life and Christianity, which is a supernatural life.
In verse 23, John describes a basic twofold commandment. First, we must believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. That means we trust in Jesus as the Savior from our sins and as Lord of our lives. Second, we are to love one another. These go together. When you believe in Jesus, you will love one another. Both of these are only possible because of the supernatural work of God’s Spirit in us. He’s the Spirit, John says at the end of verse 24, Whom God has given us.
Think about it. How does someone come to believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ? The Spirit does that work. God’s Spirit opens our eyes to believe in Jesus. Every Christian in this gathering right now has the same basic testimony. We were away from God, walking in our own ways, then one day God opened our eyes to His love for us and He drew us to Himself in a supernatural way by His Spirit.
I have prayed and believe that there is a supernatural work being done right now in this gathering. Some of you are visiting with friends or family or just exploring on your own. You are not here by accident. God loves you. He’s brought you here to hear about His love for you. His Spirit right now is drawing you to Himself. I invite you to say yes to God’s love for you and receive His love by the power of His Spirit. Let Him supernaturally change your heart, forgive your sin and bring you to eternal life with God. That is supernatural activity that I pray the Spirit of God is doing right now.
God’s Spirit is the One Who draws us to believe in the name of Jesus Christ and it’s God’s Spirit Who draws us to love one another. The Christian life is a supernatural life. I love the imagery here. God is abiding in us and we are abiding in Him. He’s producing His life in us in a way that doesn’t just affect us—it affects those around us. Christianity is a supernatural life characterized by supernatural love. It’s a love that’s not natural. It’s a love whose origin is supernatural. It’s a love we can’t produce on our own, but only God can produce in us. We want our lives to be marked by supernatural love for others.
With that in our minds, based on God’s Word, here’s what I want to do. I want to invite Pastor Maurice to join me up here. Maurice is the pastor of a church in Egypt. whom I’ve just had the opportunity this weekend to meet in person. He pastors the largest gospel-preaching, Bible-believing church in Cairo, Egypt, in the middle of Tahrir Square. He’s been here proclaiming the gospel particularly to Arab speakers all across our community.
As we’ve been talking, I’ve been so encouraged by this brother and by God’s grace in him, and by testimonies of exactly what we’re seeing in God’s Word this morning. I want you to hear some of this so let me give you a little set-up. His church is right in the middle of Tahrir Square, where back in 2011 the revolution in Egypt had crowds filling the Square with violence. His church that gathers in the middle of that Square obviously had the option of insulating themselves in whatever way they could to protect themselves. But what did they do instead? Pastor Maurice, tell us a little about what happened then and in the days that followed that.
Pastor Maurice: We were praying for years that our love for our brothers and sisters in Egypt, especially the Muslims, would be manifested, that they would see our hearts and our prayers for them and for their salvation. During the revolution, God challenged us. Would we be ready to open the church, to take the risk that the church could be burned or destroyed, to serve as a field hospital, to save lives of both the demonstrators and the soldiers who were fighting with them?
For example, in one day we had 500 casualties, if you can imagine that. But we accepted the challenge. “Why not, God? If this is what You want, we are ready not only to risk the church, but even to risk ourselves.” God used this in an unbelievable way to open the eyes of millions of Muslims to the love of Christ. Many of them came to us and said, “How could you do that? Why would you do that for us? We have been hating you for years and treating you as second-class citizens. How can you love us that way, even being ready to sacrifice and take risks?”
It was a very simple question to answer: “Jesus loved us unconditionally and He taught us to love one another.” In a miraculous way, God used this to open the gates for millions of people to see something unheard of and unseen for centuries.
In the second wave of the revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood decided to retaliate against Christians. In one week we had nearly 85 churches burned, completely destroyed, plus hundreds of homes and Christian-owned shops. We were praying, “God, please intervene. Bring something out of this chaos and disaster.” By His grace, the next day we had nearly every church carrying the same banner. “We as Christians love you. We forgive you and we pray for you.”
All the media asked the same question. On a famous talk show program, the man asked, “What are you Christians? Are you made of steel? Are you human beings like us? How can this be your reaction to such persecution? Many have been injured and much blood has been shed. How could you love your enemies? How could you forgive them and pray for them?”
One final testimony. I remember many of those who were persecuted, who had lost their husbands or sons or daughters. A talk show interviewed one woman whose 14-year-old daughter had been killed by a terrorist and who was shot herself so was in a wheelchair. The man asked her how she felt after being attacked by the terrorists. She said, “I love them. I have already forgiven them and I pray for them.” The man looked at her and said, “How come? I hope they are listening to you now and that they will have a heart attack and die when they see your strange reaction.”
She said, “No, no, no. I don’t want them to die, because if they die, they will go to a horrible place. I love them, I want them to repent before dying, then go to heaven. I want them to go to heaven.” He looked at her in disbelief. “Who are you?” I can tell you that this was a golden opportunity to say to these people that what we believe is real. It’s not just words. It’s the power of God.
David: We could spend all day diving into different ways their church there in Egypt is continuing to show love, not just in the middle of that Square, but all over the country in all kinds of different ways. I know Pastor Maurice is limited in what he can say publicly. I wish we could tell you some of what we’ve talked about privately. But I want to ask him, to the extent he’s comfortable with
sharing this, amidst the broader picture of what’s happening in the Middle East, how are you seeing the church and the love of Christ playing out?
Pastor Maurice: I’ll give you one example. Before the revolution, there was a great barrier between the Muslim community and the Christian community. We were portrayed as infidels, as aliens, so all connection between the real Christians and the Muslims was absent. God used our care and the deflection and reaction of love against the enemies in many places, especially in the big cities, to destroy this barrier and to reconcile the community again. It allowed Muslims to come and attend our churches.
I remember during this week of terrible persecution, some of the moderate Muslim young people decided to be human shields to protect the rest of the churches. But the pope of the Orthodox church said to them, “Please go home. We value your lives more than our churches. If anything would happen to you, we can not bring you back from the tomb, but we can rebuild our churches. We value your lives more
than our churches. Do you understand?”
I remember that the next year following this event, when we had a New Year celebration in our church, we had thousands of Muslims attending. In one day we had 3,000 Muslims, mainly in the street, watching and following the church. So you can imagine how much love can bring reconciliation, how much love and change can soften the hearts, if we genuinely love our enemies and are ready to take the risk.
David: That last part, “ready to take the risk”—there’s so much I wish we could go into. When you think about the church in North Africa, in the Middle East, in the middle of turmoil, there’s an option to retreat or there’s an option to risk in love. The fruit of risking in love is bringing great glory to Jesus’ name. In a moment, I’m going to ask Pastor Maurice for any last words of encouragement he might give us, then I’m going to ask him to pray for us.
I want to encourage us as a church, based on 1 John 3 and then the example of our brothers and sisters around the world. Don’t just think on a big scale, but individually in your heart, how do you need to repent of hate in your own heart? Or anger in your own heart? Indifference in your own heart? I think we all need to examine our hearts, with myself at the top of that list. Ask yourself, “In my heart, in my marriage, in my family, in my workplace, in my budget, in my life—am I selflessly seeking good for others? Am I living with compassion that’s leading to action in the church and in the world around me?”
Start there. Then for us as a church, as we wrestle with these things individually and together, ask God, “More and more and more, make us a church captivated by Your love for us and compelled by Your love for others.” May we be known for supernatural love that points to Christ. In every conversation with Pastor Maurice, he keeps saying, “God is getting glory in this way and this way and this way.” May God be glorified in our love for one another and love for the world around us.
Are there any final words you would say to us? Then I want to ask you to pray for us, Brother.
Pastor Maurice: Our gospel says clearly that God is love. This is our message. This is our God. We believe that because God is love, He came to the world in His incarnated Son and died for us. For the non-Christian, this is a completely ridiculous idea. They will believe what we say when they see that we love our enemies. We bless them and we pray for them. Then they will believe what we say. Am I clear?
Number two. Love is irresistible. Nobody can be loved unconditionally and resist it, because everybody—even Christians—are suffering from a lack of love. How much more will those who don’t know about the unconditional love be vulnerable to the love we have in Christ? Thank you for listening to this.
Lord, we thank You, because You so loved us so much that You sacrificed Yourself for us. We owe You a lot. We come before You in humility, not only to drink from Your love, but to ask You to help us not only to love one another—as we should do—but to love those who hate us. Thank You for giving us the privilege of reflecting Your image. Thank You for giving us the privilege of being Your tools, Your hands, Your feet, Your heart to touch the people around us with that love—the healing love, the fulfilling love, the love of the living God.
Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters. I pray for myself. Please help us. Please empower us. Please touch our hearts. Open our hearts to receive and to give, to be filled and to overflow with this unconditional love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
David: Amen. Thank you, Pastor. As you stay standing, it’s no coincidence that Jesus said these words in John 13:14-15: “As I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” He said this as He sat with His disciples about to take the Lord’s Supper. So in just a moment I’m going to invite followers of Christ around this room to take the Lord’s Supper.
Before you come, though, I just want to encourage you to reflect on any need for repentance in your own heart when it comes to hatred, anger, indifference—any lack of this kind of love. Ask God for the kind of love that caused Jesus to lay down His life for us. Then when you’re ready, as we sing a song about God’s love for us, I want to invite you to come to these tables.
If you’re not a follower of Jesus, let this be the moment when you receive His love for you. If you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, then I would ask you not to come to these tables. These tables are intended for those who know they’re children of God, who have put their faith in Jesus for eternal life, who have His Spirit in them. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, nobody will point anything out or draw attention to you. But we ask you not to come to these tables during this time.
Let’s meditate on, pray, think about and worship God for His love for us as we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper.
How can we apply this passage to our lives?
How does love in the family reflect the love of the Father?
What is the everyday dangerous effect of hate?
How have we been enabled to love as God loves?
In what ways have you closed off your heart to those in need?
How do you need to repent of hatred, anger, or indifference in your own life?
1 John 3:10
“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
Love in the family reflects the love of the Father.
The Church We Want to Be:
Captivated by God’s love for us
1 John 3:1
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.”
The Church We Want to Be:
Compelled by God’s love for others
1 John 3:11 – 24
“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 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. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 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. 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.”
“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
The Contrast We Need to See:
Hate . . .
- Originates with the devil
- Selfishly seeks [seeking] another’s harm
- The ultimate example (Cain): taking the life of another
Matthew 5:21 – 22
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”
1 John 3:17
“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?”
Hate . . .
- The everyday effect [of hate is]: indifference that leads to inaction
- Is evidence of spiritual death
1 John 3:13
“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
1 John 3:14
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”
Love . . .
- Originates with God
1 John 4:7 – 8
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God . . . Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Love . . .
- Selflessly seeks another’s good
- The ultimate example (Christ): sacrificing your life for another
- The everyday effect [of love is]: compassion that leads to action
1 John 3:18
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Love . . .
- Is evidence of spiritual life
1 John 3:14
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.”
The Confidence We Now Have:
God enables us as His children to love like He loves.
God emboldens us as His children to pray for His purpose.
- We desire what God desires.
- We ask for whatever we desire.
The Confidence We Now Have:
God empowers us as His children to live by His spirit.