1Jn 3:15-16 “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
It is a great blessing to have the life and love of Jesus Christ dwelling in us. The magnitude of this gift cannot be reckoned in silver and gold. Considering, then, that to whom much is given, of him much is required (Luk 12:48), walking with Jesus demands that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. This standard is not set by men or by religion, but is found in Jesus Christ himself.
In Jesus’s day, men would point to the law “Thou shalt not kill” and feel good about themselves for the keeping of this law. They understood that to kill would place them in a position of suffering judgment for the taking of life. They were at ease with the notion that they had not murdered anyone until Jesus held them to a higher standard. He taught them that being angry with a brother without cause put them in danger of the judgment (Mat 5:21-22).
We might stand before men and rightly claim that we have never physically deprived another human being of life, but can we stand before God and say that we have never hated our brother (that we have never been angry without a cause)? If we have ever hated a brother (or sister) we are guilty of murder. We can be certain that no murderer has eternal life dwelling in him. Again, note that John did not say that those that hate their brother do not have eternal life; eternal life does not abide in them.
When we walk with Jesus, eternal life abides in us. This life drives out the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Exercising the mind of Christ prevents us from hating our brother. We cannot lose sight of the familial tie; the term rendered “brother” literally implies being from the same womb or origin.
We understand (perceive) the love of God because we see that He laid down His life for us. Often, when we think of Jesus (God made manifest in the flesh) laying down His life we look at the cross. In reality, He laid down His life for us before He was born. He laid down His life for us when He left the glory that He had with the Father in the beginning (Joh 17:5). Now we can see how we can lay down our lives for the brethren.
Perhaps we have had times when we felt the Spirit in us so strongly that, in that moment, we would willingly die if it would save a brother or sister that we love. However, if we see the love of God, we need to be willing to lay aside what we have (or think we have) for the benefit of others. Am I willing to be a servant to my brother? Am I willing to give up a day of leisure to go and encourage a brother who is struggling with some issue in his life? Am I willing to step outside my comfort zone in order to help my brother? This is the importance of laying down our lives for the brethren.
In laying down our lives, we love others as Jesus loved us. When we die a corporal death, we are no longer in a condition to lay down our lives; we can only lay down our lives (present our bodies a living sacrifice, Rom 12:1) while we live. When Jesus gave up the ghost on the cross, He ended the laying down of His life; what remained was for Him to take it up again. Every day that He walked on this earth, He was laying down His life to be a part of ours. He took it up again that we may have a part in His. Do we hate our brother, or do we understand the love of God?
May God grant that we perceive His great love and the depth of His sacrifice so that we may, in like fashion, love our brothers!