By Stan Brown
I John 3:18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
For the fourth time in this epistle John refers to His readers as little children as he concludes this section on loving each other. This is an elementary piece of living out who we are in Him. In 2:28 he had said And now little children, abide in Him, in order that when he appears you might have boldness and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. This is part and parcel of that admonition. Loving each other is a direct outpouring of our love for God. The two are vitally related and we cannot love God without loving each other. Neither can we love each other without loving God. We must love one another if we expect to meet Him when He appears with bold confidence.
Imagine the scene at the rapture where many believers have heard the trumpet and the shout and in an instant are on their way to meet the Lord with great excitement and expectation. While there are others who are thinking on the way up, “Where can I hide? Paul said I would be taken whether or not I am loving (whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (I Thess. 5:10)). But now I understand what John meant by shrinking back at His coming. I will live with Him forever, but right now there is no place to hide in the midst of my shame.” We must love one another now that we might be boldly confident at His coming. (This depiction is meant for illustrative purposes. We won’t really have time for much thought on the way up.)
This verse might be paraphrased as “put your money where your mouth is or perhaps put your action where your talk is”; or maybe “Be quiet and start loving”; or maybe “Don’t forget that love is a verb”. Screaming loudly that we love is no substitute for love expressed by what we do. Words spoken with the tongue are a hollow substitute for deeds rooted in truth.
“How do we practice truth in relationship to love? We know that Jesus is the truth as He proclaimed in John 14:6. Deeds of love must be performed in response to His example and His power in our lives. And then John has not been reticent to speak of deeds done in truth in this letter. It goes back to walking in the light. Truth exists only in the light. Truth cannot be practiced in the realm of darkness. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (I John 1:6). It relates to recognizing and dealing with sin. We must recognize sin in order to confess. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9). Truth dwells in us when we really know Him. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (I John 2:4).
So, what is going on? We must understand the first twenty-one verses of the epistle in order to understand loving one another. Love can only be expressed in light of God’s truth. We must walk in the light in order to love. Acts of pseudo love that are only performed to make us look good don’t count. Love is based in our intimate relationship with the Father and the Son. Love is based on fellowship with the Father and the Son as we walk in the light. Let us walk in the light that we might love one another.