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Lesson 8: Loving Brothers and Sisters *

Introduction: This week we all get to think like "common law" lawyers. They started the idea that the law did not consist of a set of rules, but rather the rules were derived from a set of case decisions. In the former you would find the right rule and have your answer - assuming you asked just the right question. In the latter, you find the right case examples and you figure out your answer. John gives us some "cases" for us to figure out how to live as we continue our journey on the path to light. Let's plunge right into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about Biblical living!

  1. Cain v. Jesus

    1. Last week we ended our study with John's summary of how we tell the good guys from the bad guys. Good guys do good things and bad guys do bad things. That left us with the question, "What, exactly, is a good thing?" Let's continue John's discussion by reading 1 John 3:11. Imagine that I gave you one rule: "love one another." Would you know how to live?

      1. Would you face a problem with taking love (an attitude) and transforming it into some concrete action?

      2. A number of years ago I defended the religious liberty of a Wiccan. That taught me that Wiccans have one main rule (the Wiccan Rede) which essentially says "Do what you want as long as you do not harm anyone." Is that the same as loving others? (I would be grateful if everyone followed the rule that they should not harm me, but to require love adds positive requirements.)

    2. Read 1 John 3:12. John now gives us an example (a case) as opposed to a rule. What definition of love do you get from this? (Sounds like the Wiccan Rede - don't murder anyone.)

      1. Is that the standard? We love others if we refrain from murdering them?

      2. Notice that John writes about Cain's motives. Why does the Bible discuss Cain's motive for murder? (Instead of specifically identifying Cain's motives, John relates his evil actions to murder.)

        1. What evil actions on Cain's part led to murder? (Disobedience to God.)

        2. We are left to figure out for ourselves the likely motives. What do you think they were? (Jealousy of Able and covetousness of Able's standing with God.)

        3. Why does that lead to murder? (Evil motives lead to evil actions which lead to murder. The idea is that sin is progressive.)

        4. Is avoiding murder John's standard for love? (No. By looking at a case, instead of a rule, we see that John's negative case example packs in a lesson about motives and the nature of sin.)

    3. Read 1 John 3:13. Is Cain a negative case example for us, or it is an example representing the world? (At a minimum, John is showing us what love is not. It is not murder. He then says that the attitude of the world is hate, and hate leads to death. You can expect the world to hate you.)

      1. Let's make this current. "Haters" is a term used by homosexuals to describe Christians who believe what the Bible says about homosexuality. A common "gay" bumper sticker says "Hate is not a family value." Do they have a point? Or, is part of the world's hate toward Christians reflected in them calling us haters?

      2. Is John writing about love towards fellow Christians? (I think so.)

        1. Does that make the issue easier? We are told to love those who are behaving themselves? (Our relationship with homosexuals is made more difficult because we say the behavior is sinful and they say it is normal. But, even when we deal with our fellow Christians we have the problem of sinful behavior.)

    4. Read 1 John 3:14-15. What test does John give us for knowing that we are on the path to light? (We love our brothers. Are we making any progress here? We are back to figuring out what "love" means when we try to convert it into actions.)

      1. Read Matthew 5:21-22. Jesus says "anger = something like murder." That does not seem reasonable at first. Is John explaining Jesus' statement? (I think John is on the same logical track. Anger leads to hate which leads to murder. Don't get angry and you will never murder. If you substitute love for anger you are on the path to light.)

      2. Have we any concrete points on which to measure our love? (Yes. Anger is not love. Hate is not love. Murder is not love.)

    5. Read 1 John 3:16. Now we get the positive case example. What is love? (Giving up your life for someone else.)

      1. Are you willing to give up your life for your fellow Christians? (It sure was a lot easier when I only had to avoid murder!)

      2. How is the abortion debate resolved in light of this basic rule? (Abortion is taking the life of another for our benefit. Jesus' example is just the opposite: giving up our life for another.)

      3. Abortion is an easy logical call when measured by Jesus' example. What about other aspects of life, such as time and money. Are you willing to give these up for other Christians?

    6. Read 1 John 3:17. What does John say about love and helping our fellow Christians who are in need? (He says helping them logically follows from Jesus giving up His life for us.)

      1. Why is it logical to have to help someone if Jesus gave us the example of giving up our lives for others? (What would you trade for your life? Whatever it might be, giving it up is less difficult than giving up your life.)

    7. Read 1 John 3:18. What does John mean when he says to love "in truth." (Actually doing something to help someone shows that you love them. Talk might not reflect any truth at all.)

    8. Consider where we have gone. The negative example of Cain tells us not to murder, hate or get angry. Avoiding murder and hate seems pretty easy. The Old Testament is filled with condemnation for rich people who plunder and take advantage of the poor. That seems to be reasonable. Our discussion so far is "Wiccan Rede" territory: don't harm others. But now we are told we have to give our stuff to those Christians in need. Why is this so hard? (We are selfish. Not only do we not want to give up our life for others, we don't want to give up our stuff. We think "let them get their own stuff!")

      1. Is there any hope for us? (Yes. This is what is great about learning about grace, the path (John's path of light), and case law. First, we are saved by grace ( 1 John 2:1-2). The saved are on the path away from Cain's negative case and towards Jesus' positive case. We should have murder, hate and anger behind us, and our sights set on Jesus' example. His example is our goal.)

  2. Heart Problems

    1. Read 1 John 3:19-20. What do you think John means when he writes about our hearts condemning us? Has your heart ever condemned you? (This is the role of Satan and his helpers - to condemn us ( Revelation 12:10).)

      1. How can we distinguish Satan's condemnation from the conviction of the Holy Spirit? (God forgives us of our confessed sins, but Satan keeps bringing them up to discourage us. I think John is saying that if you examine your actions, and see that you are moving forward towards Jesus' example of love, then you can have confidence you are on the path of light. You have "proof" your life is moving in the right direction.)

    2. Read 1 John 3:21-22. Why is John making any reference to getting stuff? I thought we just decided that we needed to give stuff to those Christians in need. (The total picture is now revealed - if Jesus was willing to give us His life, He is willing to give us stuff. John teaches that if we open our hearts (and our wallets) to those in need, God will open His wallet to us.)

    3. Read 1 John 3:23-24. After all of this discussion about helping others, why does John say "His command" is "to believe in the name of His Son?" (As we discussed, Jesus is the ultimate example of sacrificing for others. Jesus is also the ultimate example of being honored for this.)

    4. Friend, how about you? Will you determine today that you will help your fellow Christians who are in need? Will you share your time and your stuff with them?

  3. Next week: Believing in the Son of God.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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