Jesus: A Perfect Example of Love (1 John 3:16–17)

One of the great things about love is that the Bible shows us a perfect example of how to do it every day and in every way. This perfect example is what John was referring to when he wrote, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

Jesus himself said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one';s life for one';s friends” (John 15:13). And that is exactly the kind of love Jesus demonstrated to his “friends” — those who had made a lifetime commitment to follow him.

But how, according to John, do we imperfect humans reflect God';s perfect love? Most of the time, it';s just a matter of being practical. John goes on to write, “So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion — how can God';s love be in that person? (1 John 3:16–17).

Sacrificial love is central to the Christian faith and was demonstrated perfectly by Jesus, who “gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal';s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7–8).

In other words, love, in order to be love, must be demonstrated through actions, not just through feelings and words. And while there are numerous references in the New Testament letters to feelings of affection and friendship from one believer to another, real love — the kind of love Jesus had for his followers — has to be demonstrated and not just felt.

Jesus demonstrated his love for others by speaking soothing words of comfort as well as difficult words of truth, by meeting people';s physical needs through some of his miracles, and by healing those who were sick or injured. But his greatest act of love — the greatest act of love in all of history — was when he willingly gave himself up to die a horrible death on a cross of wood.

From the very beginning of his life, Jesus, John tells us, is our perfect example of love. While it is highly unlikely that any individual believer is going to have to die for another, it is a certainty that we all will have opportunities to “give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” by demonstrating the kind of compassion Jesus demonstrated every day.

Study Questions

What should it mean, practically speaking, to the believer today to love as Jesus loved when he was on earth?

Why do you think Jesus spent so much time meeting the physical needs of people through his many miracles when his ultimate mission was to save people';s souls?

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