How should we view 1 John 3:17, 18?

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How should we view 1 John 3:17, 18 and try to obey it? “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

 

We view this passage as one among many strong challenges given by Jesus and His apostles, urging Christ’s followers to love others as He loved us and to put that love into daily action as He did. How did Jesus love us and others? He went about doing good (Acts 10:38) — serving, teaching, touching, healing, helping, giving, and forgiving all the people He could for as long as He lived among us. 

None of us are as capable of and consistent at loving others as Jesus was, but His example remains our goal and model. We do not love people to earn God’s merit for salvation or to prove how much like Christ we are. We practice love because masses in our world are hurting and because the Spirit of Christ in us urges us through the Word to do what we can to help. God so loved the world’s people that He gave. We’re learning to love them as well by sharing our time, talent, and treasure to lift heavy loads for all who bear them — around the corner and around the world. 

A good first step may be for us to become more intentionally aware of the hungry, homeless, hurting, and hopeless in our churches, communities, and cities. Loving, giving, and serving begin at home, or not far off. Some of Jesus’ people have the courage and conviction — often with a small group linked through the church — to seek out and assist those whose need is most obvious in public places. Others will choose to offer their support through a rescue mission, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Based on the love and truth of our Lord, none of us should be content until we have found a way to put our feet, our hands, and our dollars into this struggle to assist the world’s poor in meeting their basic human needs for food, raiment, and shelter. 

Your question focuses more on the priority of giving to brethren first. Most church organizations have a central office through which they receive funds to help believers in other countries and channel those funds through trusted indigenous brethren to those who need it most. In the Church of God (Seventh Day), that office is GC Missions (Abroad). We also maintain a Disaster Relief Fund that passes on 100 percent of donated dollars to relieve those who have been caught in recent natural or human disasters. 

In addition to donating through the church of their choice, many Christians also support larger, non-denominational efforts that do much good around the world: Bread for the World, World Relief, World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, etc. 

For us, the task of loving and supporting people in need, beginning with our brethren (Galatians 6:10), is of the highest priority — right up there with taking the gospel of Christ’s kingdom to the world. At the same time, we readily admit that this work is too big for any one church or organization to accomplish on its own. Therefore, we gladly join our hands, hearts, and resources to collaborate with others who are committed to the same Word in obedience to the Lord Jesus. 

To talk, to write, and even to agree about loving, helping, serving, and giving to the needs of others is of no benefit to anyone — until our words become our deeds. 

It’s our move.

— Elder Calvin Burrell

 

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    Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.