16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
1 John 3:16-18 NASB
Seeing the Need
A couple of years ago, I was helping a friend with an exceedingly difficult life challenge that they were going through. He was truly in a difficult spot and the remedy would require someone to come alongside him to help him get through it. The solution ended up being particularly challenging for me as well, absolutely testing my own perseverance to endure the struggle for my friend. It was months of blood, sweat, and tears on my part and was straining both mentally and physically. And not only for me, but my family as well.
I remember one day my friend asked me "Why are you helping me like this? Why do you choose to continue helping me when the challenge seems so great for us both?" I simply replied, "Just as Christ went to the point of bleeding for us, we should go to the point of bleeding for each other and I'm not bleeding yet, so let's keep going."
My friend was absolutely awestruck at my response and it was at this point that I began to realize how little many of us believers (including myself) understand what it means to be a part of the true body of Christ.
Dwight Moody once said, "We talk cream and live skim milk." I am afraid this has all too often been the essence of my Christian life. How many times in the past have I seen a need yet only given it a little token of my attention or no notice at all? I am afraid the answer would be quite embarrassing. But thankfully He is continuing to mature me in my walk and as I have continued to grow, I have continued to learn what it means to endure with and for others.
Laying Down One's Life (for the brethren)
I am well aware of the scripture noted in John 15:12-13:
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
Yet, do I really live it out for the brethren? Do I even think about it when it comes to bearing the burden of those around me? My primary passage today really sums it up very well: We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16
The book of 1 John is written to believers, to the church and "the brethren" he mentions in this scripture is specifically referring to fellow believers, not outsiders (Colossians 4:5). I think sometimes I lose sight of the necessity to endure specifically for the church. Whether it's a product of our current "church culture", a misunderstanding of scripture, a lack of teaching in the body, etc., etc., I seem to look at my relationship with outsiders as one where I should show love and kindness and bend over backwards for "all men so that I may win a few" (1 Corinthians 9:22). And although there is truth in that, I think I need to re-read my Bible with a little more focus on understanding what love really looks like, not just to outsiders, but to my own fellow brethren.
If I am to show love to the lost world, the outsiders, how much more should I show love to those who have counted the cost, offered themselves as a living sacrifice, and are in the body, the brethren?
Not a Socialist Commune
A while back I mentioned to another friend of mine, this idea of "bleeding for one another", and it was disheartening to hear him say to me that "this idea has been tried in different Christian "sects" before and never worked." All I can say is that if a "commune" is what I think of when I read passages like Acts 2:44-45 (44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.), then I believe that I have an incorrect view of what it means to live out the love for the brethren that Christ lived out for me.
A life of dying to self and bleeding for the brethren is not at all a life of socialism nor is it a life of isolation, living in a commune. It is simply seeing a need and being willing to do whatever I can to help my brethren; that is it.
Living the New Life
Our American culture has moved a long way away from the lifestyle of our grandparents. Where I live, the culture is very isolated to each family. For as long as I can remember, it is uncommon for me to see the "front porch" relationships or the spontaneous get togethers that I encountered growing up. In fact, my own experience has seen a very diminished desire among the body of believers to get together at all, much less sacrifice for one another. "Going to church" has even become something that is a one-off event for an hour on Sunday mornings. Seemingly gone are the days where our lives revolved around our local body of believers.
And I do not know why. Is it because we have grown so wealthy that we do not think we really need each other? "Well, I would help so and so, but he can afford to hire someone to help him." Or perhaps it is because we move around so much more that we just do not know the other believers in our church? Or...maybe we just are not living the life that Christ calls us to live? And I do believe that this is the actual reason...
1 John 3:14, 19 helps me to see WHY I should be concerned with any lack of love that I may have towards the brethren: 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him...
My love for the brethren is a manifestation, an outward sign, of the change that has taken place on the inside of my life. And if I have been truly born again, then I will gladly take on this simple truth:
As Christ went to the point of bleeding for us, we should go to the point of bleeding for each other.