When you’ve known some important truth from the very beginning of a movement, you’ve essentially no excuse for not understanding it. John writes that from the beginning, we’ve heard that we ought to love one another.
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
We therefore have no reason, no justification for backbiting, backstabbing, name-calling, undermining, belittling one another. We’ve no excuse for accusations against one another especially the excuse some call “tough love.” Tough love often looks like hatred. I’ve seen it mock, name-call, belittle, dismiss, accuse, and harm too many over the years and I deny its value in “building up the church.”
Paul calls us to build, not to destroy. We are to enhance one another’s walk with Christ, not demean those walks.
We’ve heard this from the beginning. Let’s act on what we know before others turn and devour us.
The second great commandment and the one Jesus gives us is “that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:11) “Whoever does not love abides in death” rather than in life. (1 John 3:14) And if we hate one another, then we are become as murderers, “and you know no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15) Simply, the author is telling us that hatred leads to eternal death while love leads to eternal life.
The first murderer, Cain, murders his own brother in a fit of jealous rage. “And why did he murder [Abel]? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:12) And this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and people love the darkness rather than the Light because their works are evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works are carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)
The author of 1 John actually warns us that “we should not be like Cain.” (1 John 3:12) If we become like Cain, then we are “not of God” for the “one who does not love his brother” can not be “born of God” (1 John 3:10,9)
Yet, “whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.” (1 John 3:20) “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) Let us come to the Light so that our “works are carried out in God.” (John 3:21)
Do not be fast to get angry, writes James. Instead, remain quiet and listen. “For a man’s anger cannot promote the justice of God.” James advises us to remove from our lives “all that is sordid, and the malice that hurries to excess.”
Malice hurries to excess; hatred engages our emotion, making us blind and deaf to truth. Anger destroys calm. James advises us to keep control over our tongues so that we remain quiet and listen. As we listen to the other calmly, we may find our anger slipping.
Malice builds barriers between us and the other, so that we are incapable of listening to the other side of the story. Therefore, our anger, our malice “cannot promote the justice of God.” The scales are tipped in our favor when we cherish our anger.
Rather, says James, “be sure that you act on the message and do not merely listen; for that would be to mislead yourselves.”
“Quietly accept the message planted in your hearts, which can bring you salvation.” As we remain quiet and calm, we are capable of creating peace with the other and so “promote the justice of God.”
Jesus speaks of brother turning against brother in betrayal; of father standing in hatred against his own child; of children despising and sending their own parents to death. He speaks of Christians being arrested, taken into court, accused — for His sake — presumably of all sorts of false charges.
And Jesus encourages us, “Do not worry about what you are to say; when the time comes, the words you need will be given you; for it is not you who will be speaking; it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.”
Wait for God’s timing. Do not fret over what you are to say when someone — perhaps even someone who professes to love you — betrays you. In His timing, God gives you His Word to speak to that someone. Rest assured; you are not on your own.