We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 1 John 3:14
There are some images so powerful they can never be forgotten. That was my experience when I viewed a famous photograph of the late Princess Diana of Wales. At first glance, the captured scene looks mundane: smiling warmly, the princess is shaking the hand of an unidentified man. But it’s the photograph’s story that makes it remarkable.
On April 19, 1987, when Princess Diana visited London Middlesex Hospital, the United Kingdom was engulfed in a wave of panic as it confronted the AIDS epidemic. Not knowing how the disease—which often killed with terrifying speed—was spread, the public at times treated AIDS victims like social pariahs.
So it was a stunning moment when Diana, with ungloved hands and a genuine smile, calmly shook an AIDS patient’s hand that day. That image of respect and kindness would move the world to treat victims of the disease with similar mercy and compassion.
The picture reminds me of something I often forget: freely and generously offering the love of Jesus to others is worth it. John reminded early believers in Christ that to let love wither or hide in the face of our fear is really to live “in death” (1 John 3:14). And to love freely and unafraid, filled and empowered with the Spirit’s self-giving love, is to experience resurrection life in all its fullness (vv. 14, 16).
When are you most prone to let fear stifle your love for others? How can you grow in experiencing and sharing the Spirit’s boundless love within those fearful places?
God of love, You are love, and to live in love is to live in You. I long to live with that kind of fearless, joyous love. Fill me with Your Spirit, and carry me ever deeper into Your love, until fear dissolves and Your love flows freely through me.
John’s words in this epistle express the awareness of an aging family member who wanted dear brothers, sisters, children, and grandchildren to share his fullness of joy and love of Christ (1 John 1:4; 2:5). As a younger man, he’d seen with his own eyes the “Word of life” (1:1–3). For three years he’d walked, watched, and talked with the Teacher who urged His disciples to live in Him—as a branch in a vineyard draws life and bears the fruit of its vine (2:6; John 15:5). So now, while acknowledging that no one can claim the perfection that John had seen in Christ (1 John 1:8–10), he longed for family members to live life to its fullest rather than wandering back into the confusion of living a life of death and darkness without love.