A Culture of Selfless Love
Text: 1 John 3:11-18; 4:7-11, 19-21 | Listen to Message
We Love Because We’re Loved
The human heart is inherently selfish. As we go through life, “What do I want?” is often our greatest concern. What’s my opinion? What’s my preference? What’s my priority? How do I feel about this? What can this person do for me? What can this situation do for me? What can this church do for me? Me, me, me. It’s all about me.
Much of what we call “love” is actually self-love. We claim to love our spouses, our friends, and our faith communities, but how often are these discarded like a cheap lawn chair when we don’t get what we want out of them? Instead of commitment and sacrifice, our “love” often looks a lot more like consumerism and self-gratification.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Our hope as Christians is that real Love changed – and is changing – the world. Furthermore, Love wants to work through us, the Church.
1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that he – Jesus – laid down his life for us.” 1 John 4:9-10 continues, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
You want to know what love is? Look at Jesus!
While the whole world operates off the principle “my advantage at your expense,” Jesus Christ did the exact opposite: he came into our world and laid down his life to say “your advantage at my expense.”
This self-sacrificing love of Jesus on the cross is a beautiful model for us to follow. But here’s the thing: a model by itself cannot change you. It can show you a pattern of what to do, but it can’t give you the power to actually do it. Worse yet, our inability to replicate the model of Jesus’ love leaves us broken and crushed. A perfect model doesn’t save imperfect people, it only condemns.
But here’s the Good News: the love of Jesus isn’t just a model; it is also a manifestation. In other words, the love of Jesus did – and is doing – something in us, for us, and to us. John calls it “propitiation,” which is just a way of saying Jesus sacrificed his life to atone for (cover, forgive, wash away) our sins. Jesus’ love brings us back to the God who is Love, and in his presence we are transformed!
This is how John can say, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Notice, it’s not, “We ought to love.” It’s simply, “We love.” This is not an imperative, but simply a declaration of fact: We love because Christ’s love changes our hearts and his selfless love flows through us to love others.