Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:13-14)
Love is an essential component of the Christian life. Due to Christ’s work on the cross, as John says, we have “passed out of death into life.” As Christians, we do not abide in death, like those who do not love, but we abide in Christ—who is our life.
Notice that John does not diminish the power of death. Death still exists, and it holds many people within its grasp. By not loving, people reaffirm death’s authority over them.
Here are four ways this can happen:
1.) We Over-Protect our Time
Death says, “You only have one life. Are you enjoying it? Are you spending your time well, given that it will all be over in a matter of years? Are you sure you want to volunteer at church—that’s three hours of your day! Are you sure it’s a good idea to do the dishes every night—you’re wasting your life!”
But Jesus Christ says about Himself, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This life of ours is not our one and only life.
When we value time too much, we become reluctant to spend it. We hoard our time. This then is an indicator that we believe death’s lies, and that part of us is still living under death’s reign.
The promise of eternal life, however, means we don’t have to hoard our time here on earth. There is a whole bunch of it awaiting us in heaven, which Christ will sustain for eternity.
2.) We Give Partial Effort
Death says, “None of your work matters. It’s all going to be wiped away. Forgotten. Why strive for no reason? It makes no difference whether you work hard or give partial effort! Who cares if you are not a good steward—no one is keeping you accountable anyway.”
But Jesus says, “For [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property… Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (Matthew 25:14, 19).
We are the servants, and Jesus is our master. He is coming back! Death says everything we have is an accident, given to us by chance and will be taken away. But Jesus tells us that He has given us everything, and one day we will be accountable for what we’ve done with it.
What gifts has God given you? Use them for His glory! As Jesus said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).
3.) We Don’t Rest
Death also says, “You better work real hard. Any legacy you want to attain has to be done here on earth. That’s where it really matters. You want people to remember you, right? Do something big. Make lots of money. Establish your reputation.”
But Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Death wants us to be busy making a name for ourselves, and makes sure we feel stressed when we have to give up our time for something that doesn’t help our reputation. You might note that death pushes us to not only despair of work but also to increase our work—and therein is the cruel inconsistency of death.
Jesus, as seen in John 9:4, calls us to work hard for His glory. But what He is saying about work is the exact opposite of what death is saying. If death motivates you to work hard by dragging the carrot in front of you, always keeping it out of reach, Jesus compels you to good works by giving you everything you need beforehand.
In other words, death calls us to earn, and there is no rest in death’s framework. Jesus saves us, then calls us to work as a result of salvation, not as a way to gain it.
And since we are saved in Christ, we can rest in Christ too.
4.) We Stress about the Unknown
Death says, “You know you are not in control. What will happen to you in the future? What will happen to those around you? You better provide for every last possible outcome.”
But Jesus says, “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:30-32).
Jesus assures us that death is not ultimately in control, but God is.
Belief in Christ is the Key to Love, Defying Death
As John wrote, the one who does not love abides in death. For, if we listening to the lies of death, we will hoard our time, give partial effort, refuse rest, and stress about the unknown.
Love, on the other hand, spends all of its time for the sake of others. Love gives full effort. Love provides space for rest. And love brings constant joy to the believer. This is the way to the abundant life which Jesus promised believers (John 10:10).
Death is an intimidating force. He boasts an undefeated record, and believes himself to be the king. But the Bible tells us Jesus rose from the dead—gaining victory over sin and death.
So, we have two options: We can follow Christ’s teachings and love another, in spite of death’s supposed reign, or we can choose to not love, in spite of Christ’s reign.
Who do you believe?