Click here for the reading: 1 John 3:13–18.
The tragedy of Proverbs 9 is the rejection of Wisdom by the simple, and this tragedy has manifold consequences. The scoffer who refuses correction hates the one who is wise. John illuminates this hatred. It is not merely the hatred that the fool has for the one with insight. It is the hatred that the dead have for the living. Having passed from death to life, there is now a chasm between the wise and the fool that cannot be crossed by appeals to common humanity or shared experience.
But John is concerned that those who once were darkness might continue to live in the darkness. The simple test is love for the brothers. The one who does not love has not received love. The one who hates does violence to his brother and is unfit for eternal life. How can you be fit for life when you desire death for those with whom you would share that life? The impossibility is staggering and brings to light the site of much hypocrisy. External piety, devotion, and fellowship in the church count for nothing if you harbor ill-will towards your brother. If you desire life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Most importantly, keep from being double-tongued, saying that you love your brother while you withhold the world’s goods from him in his need.
The word love is almost irrecoverable from the world, but John shows us how to save the notion. “By this we know love, that Christ laid down his life for us.” Love that finds its example in anyone other than Christ is defective or perverse. Love that is not sourced in the love of Christ for the world is never genuine. And the genuineness is seen in this: a willingness to lay down one’s own life for the brothers.
The righteousness that we have in Christ – Christ’s own righteousness – is meant to be into practice (Mt. 6:1). The practice of righteousness in charity is not something incidental to faith, but the two are inseparable. “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (1 John 3:23). The one who refuses to help his brother in need is also refusing the righteousness of faith. He not only hates his brother, whom he can see, but he hates God, whom he cannot see.
It’s a parallel to Paul’s argument about the resurrection – that if there were no resurrection then we of all people are most to be pitied for we have believed in vain. If the believer has no love for his brothers, then he has believed in vain, for what is the purpose of believing besides living in righteousness. Those who claim to believe but walk yet in darkness have misunderstood the purpose of Jesus’ signs, longing for a bread that perishes, longing for this life without end when they should place their hope in Christ’s life which they may begin to live even now.