We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
Laying down our lives conjures up thoughts of being willing to “take a bullet” for someone. And the spirit which led Christ to sacrifice his life for the good of the church should lead us to do the same thing for our brethren if circumstances should require it. We ought to have such love for the church that we should be willing to die for it, as a patriot is willing to die for his country. We should love fellow believers enough to be willing to jeopardize our lives to aid them in times of disaster. We should love God’s truth enough to be willing to sacrifice our lives rather than deny it. We should love the cost of Christ enough to bring the gospel where it is unknown - even at risk of our lives. We should live for Christ, engaging completely in whatever work he sets before us, knowing that to die is gain.
But while the necessity of laying down our lives for one another is rare, the necessity of meeting the needs of others is not. If we ought to be willing to lay down our lives for others, we certainly ought to be willing to make comparatively smaller sacrifices which are necessary to relieve other believers in their distress. If we close our hearts against the needs of others there is no evidence that the love of God dwells in us. If we will not share our bread with a hungry believer we certainly would not lay down our life for him. The world produces enough food to feed everyone, but poverty, greed, and other factors lead to starvation and malnutrition around the world . We see overwhelming pictures of need and close our hearts as a defense mechanism. How would the world change if all Christians loved not with our words alone, but with our deeds and truth?
My middle class American house would be a palace in much of the world. Do I use it for the cause of Christ? My biggest problem with the food in my pantry and fridge is making sure I use all the food before it goes bad. Do I often feed the hungry? Much of my time is wasted and not spent doing all things to the glory of God. Not that many are called to give up all material comforts for a monastic life, but I imagine we are all called to do more to alleviate the suffering of others than we are doing. Our true faith is shown in the way we help others. “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (Js 2:16-17).
Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). When our actions match our kind words and our beliefs then our consciences and hearts will be assured that we are of God, no matter what forgiven sins of the past continue to condemn our hearts.