Love is a much used, and much abused, word. We fall in and out of love. We love the latest fashion or fad. We are happy to say we love someone or something when it serves our ego or purpose. Searching for love is a characteristic of human nature and, at its best, our most redeeming quality. ‘How do we understand and experience love?’ is a question most of us will ask sometime in our lives. John, one of the first followers of Jesus, gives us an insight into how God sees our need for love.

For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other. We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time. The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together. This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. 1 John 3:11-17 (The Message)

While the search for love is our most redeeming human quality, hate, and its physical outworking in murder, is our most condemning. The story of Cain and his brother Abel (found in chapter three of Genesis, the first book of the Bible) is a prime example. Jealousy, petty rivalry, and anger are what drove Cain to murder his brother. When called to account by God for Abel’s whereabouts Cain responds, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The consequence of such a wicked heart was to lose out on God’s good favour, something no-one should relish. Real love, in God’s sight, has no less consequence, however. As the picture of hate is displayed in the story of Cain and Able, the love of God is shown in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God’s love for all of us took Jesus to sacrifice his life on the cross. He chose to submit to the pain, suffering, and anguish of a tortured death in order that the greatest redeeming quality of human nature could find its home. Our searching after love will only meet its fulfillment if we take the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ as our example. Not until we give all to God, and for God, in the naked helplessness of spiritual submission to the will of God, will we know that we are truly loved. Only when we live the life of selfless love for others, in the image of Christ’s sacrificial love, will be truly loving.

Lord, I want to know your love today and to love you as you want me to, wholly, utterly, completely. So help me to give every part of me into your hands and to be filled with your Holy Spirit that I might do your will. Let the love that you show to me in the sacrifice of my Lord, Jesus Christ, be the example I take in living in sacrificial love for others each day. Amen.