I used to think to myself, “If I ever write a blog post, it’s not going to have a click-bait title.” I’m occasionally frustrated by articles that are basically focused on nothing more than that a particular author said a pretty basic truth—but in “the most shocking and rad way.” I feel this way especially when a title’s normal usage is the exact opposite of what the title is about. It gets thousands of clicks, but when one reads it, “That sly dog . . . the title is not what he meant at all.” Sometimes truth we haven’t thought about in a while, however, will have a bit of shock factor, but shock factor should not be an end in and of itself. That said, there are ways we as Christians—yes, even Christians!—can think like a murderer.
“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).
Notice that, according to this passage, one is not tempted to think like a murderer when one is trying to lovingly confront blatant sin. Rather, thinking like a murderer is being jealous or hating someone because of something good done to them or because of some goodness God is working through them. Need some examples?
What about Cain, who thinks, “Of course God accepts Able’s offering. The cute little shepherding pretty boy with his little lambs. The guy’s just always goodie-goodie. And his offerings . . . psh. Just because he has a ‘holy attitude.’ Give me a break.”
(Personal example) “Of course they win the basketball championship! Because they just work so hard for it! Maybe they should get a job and participate in something that will actually make a difference for once.”
“Of course, she’s singing the special this morning, Little Miss Perfect with her Little Miss Perfect hair.”
“Of course, he gets a promotion.”
“Of course, they told 30 people about Jesus!”
“Of course, their ministry is growing!”
“Of course, they got the free ticket to go on the ultra-spiritual mission trip!”
True Love “Do not be surprised brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). If lewd comments come from someone who just hates “religious people” and the whole concept of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, we should absolutely not be surprised. How disheartening, though, if these comments came from a redeemed possession of Christ at the expense of another dearly redeemed child of God. God’s purpose is that redeemed image bearers would love one another.
Verse 14 reiterates another one of these litmus tests in 1 John of genuine faith: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” True love wants what God wants. True love does not affirm all behavior. True love will sometimes say, “Right now you are lost, blind, or wrong. Would you please let me share God’s truth with you?” (Probably coming in a future post is what the latter statement does not mean.)
Murderous Thinking John gave us the example of Cain in vs. 11, but vs. 15 seems to make a SHOCKING logical leap: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer…” (vs. 15).
Stop and read that again. Not “everyone who clubs his brother to death” is a murderer, but “everyone who hates his brother.” This is talking to Christians about how they view other Christians! Hating your brother or sister in Christ happens when you say, “My life would be so much better right now if “insert name” were not a part of it.” You just put yourself in murderer territory. That is the starting point of murderous thinking. Here’s what’s going on:
You reject the idea that God has put everyone in your life for a very specific purpose.
You reject that this person is a valuable image bearer.
You reject that God loves this person.
You willfully disobey God’s command to love your brother.
You don’t care about the unsaved, who are more aware of your relationship with your brother in Christ than you know.
You may need to consider the truth from vs. 15b, “no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Your thinking needs to be renewed to see God’s greatness and goodness in giving us everyone in the family of God called the church, including the brother whose very existence you are tempted to view as nothing more than a sanctifying thorn to the deepest caverns of your soul.
Hope! Maybe you feel a little bit beat up spiritually, like I felt after studying this passage. Be encouraged. God never gives us the bad news without giving us the good.
You can be a gospel witness. You may not know how to love your brother or sister—ask God for wisdom! (James 1). If you love believers every time you see them in public and at church, the lost will see Jesus.
Your life pattern when confronted with these truths should be confessing (taking God’s side against) your sin to God and resting in His continual faithfulness, love, and forgiveness (John established this already in 1 John 1:9).
There is great biblical hope and blessing for those who regularly renew their minds in God’s truth (Romans 12:1-2).
Be excited to watch God change your life with the truth of the gospel and ask Him to make your love for your brothers look more like Christ’s love (Philippians 1:6).