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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“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?.”—1 John 3:17 (NKJV)
Charlie’s blue eyes were normally peaceful, even jovial at times. But on this evening, they were as cold as the Arctic Ocean. His eyes drilled into mine. And if this had been a cartoon rather than real life, I’m sure smoke would have puffed out of his ears.
Charlie was angry at what I said, but I think it was more than that. He was shocked. To be honest, I kind of shocked myself as well. I told this “respectable,” church-going, professional man that he should party, he should drink, and he should hook up with as many women as he could. And then I added, “But please, please quit calling yourself a Christian.”
You see, Charlie was living a double life. On Sundays he was a happily married, father of two, who worked as an accountant and volunteered as an usher at his church. But every other day of the week he was living like the person I described above. He knew it, his wife knew it, and I knew it. Charlie said he had trusted Jesus as his Savior and that God’s Spirit lived in him, but he sure wasn’t living like it. And since he is my cousin, and since he came to me for “advice,” I felt justified in what I said.
In today’s Bible passage, the apostle John addressed the same issue: people who claimed to love God but didn’t act like it. In this particular instance, Christ-followers failed to show compassion to brothers and sisters in need. The passage says they had shut up their hearts. Another version translates this phrase as “turning a cold shoulder.” They said they had embraced the love of God, but they had no pity on their fellow man.
Let’s be clear: John knew good works wouldn’t save a person. Acting like a Christian doesn’t make a Christian any more than mooing makes one a cow. However, when people have experienced the saving love of Christ and have God’s Spirit living in them, they will reflect God’s character. While they will be far from perfect, they won’t “shut up their hearts” or turn a cold shoulder. They will live a life of love toward fellow believers, toward their family members, and toward their neighbors.
DIG: Set aside 30 minutes and read through the entire Book of 1 John.
DISCOVER: Think about your reputation. Is your life an accurate reflection of someone who’s had a life-changing encounter with a loving God?
DISPLAY: Write down three ways you can display the love of God this week. For example, make amends, give generously, or show mercy to someone in need.