“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.” 1 John 3:16-19
When we are the recipient of generosity—when someone does something for us— we are more likely to be generous ourselves. This is a fairly natural and expected response for most of us. And this is something like what the author of 1 John is saying about how people are expected to act once they have received the gift of God’s love through Jesus
When I say it is expected, I don’t mean that it is expected as in, “I expect you to do this or else…” But expect as in anticipation. It is more like when you add vinegar to baking soda and you expect it to bubble up. The natural and expected response to being filled up with God’s love is that one will also flow out with the same. When we have received love, we are expected to share it with others.
There is also an element of expectation, as in obligation, involved in this as well because in order to live as a person of God, we are expected and commanded to love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). But because it is the gift of God’s grace that fills us with love and makes it possible for us to act out of love, then what God commands us, God also gives us the power to do.
One of my favorite quotes about giving is attributed to Amy Carmichael, who was a Christian missionary to India from the early 1900’s. She left her family, friends, and life in Northern Ireland to serve the people of India for 55 years. She said to have shared this message, “one can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving”. That is pretty much what the Gospel of John is saying here: We cannot believe in Jesus without loving, and we cannot love without giving.
In order to grow toward self-sacrificing generosity that embodies the love of God, most of us won’t just jump right in head first. We need some beginner steps, like…
- reading what the Bible says about giving
- praying and seeking God’s guidance
- giving a little something to see what it is like
- talking about it with each other—to see how others do it, to receive encouragement, and to be challenged to continue growing
And then finally, we will get to a place when we can live it. We will not just say that we believe, we will also do what we believe. Our actions and our lives as individuals and as a church will speak much louder than our words of faith. We will become generous followers of Jesus.
Julie Holly is the Senior Pastor at Discovery United Methodist Church in Birmingham. You can follow her blog by clicking here! or with this address: http://pastorchickword.blogspot.com