In verses 10-17 John continues to teach on what identifies a true Christian.
10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 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 3:10-17 (NKJV)
Here John highlights the fruit of true conversion and provides a test to measure whether we are really born again. This once more takes us back to his refutation of the Gnostic heresy that teaches that what we do with our bodies does not really matter. John shows that if we are born again it will be manifested in love toward other believers. Not the love of saying “God bless you,” but the love of doing that ministers to the spiritual and material needs of others. We can know that we have passed from death to life, that is, we have been born again, if ‘we love the brethren.’ What does it mean to ‘love the brethren?’ having compassion on them and ministering to their needs. Which in practice is laying down our lives.
If we want to lay down our lives it helps to understand what it means. If we think in terms of military or law enforcement someone may lay down their life by losing it in the exercise of their duty. That is one aspect and a very significant one. Yet in most of our day to day lives we will never be in this situation. Yet Paul said, ‘I die daily.’ It helps to think of our lives as having a bank account with a set amount of money in it that we can spend. If we spend it on ourselves it is gone. If we spend it on others it is gone from our current account but is then deposited in an eternal bank account, an investment that goes on ahead. We choose where to spend our life but only one way of spending is a true investment. This does not mean spending every waking moment seeking to help others; that in general becomes legalism. It does mean living with a larger purpose so that all our time and energy is ultimately connected to a larger life purpose and goal, serving Jesus and His kingdom.
If we reflect on this, is there a better way to invest our lives?