We all have stuff, it’s inevitable. In defense of myself (and all of you who have stuff), we don’t mean to collect so many things. We start small and work our way up. I remember the first time I went to college (many years ago) all of my stuff could fit into the trunk and back seat of a sedan. Over time we get married, have kids, and collect the stuff that goes with all the changes: couches, chairs, books, clothes, etc. The last time I moved my family it took a semi to move us from point A to point B - how things have changed!
There are a lot of benefits to having stuff, but there are also drawbacks. The biggest drawback is that when you have a lot of stuff, you have to focus on your stuff. I would argue that most of our time is spent taking care our stuff and generally focusing in on ourselves. We become the center of our own attention. When this happens, we tend to ignore our neighbor(s) and their needs. It becomes all about “me.”
This passage from 1 John challenges this tendency. The verse is pretty clear: pay attention to your neighbor’s needs. Further, if you see that they are in need and don’t pity them (and inferred is here is fulfilling their need), then you don’t have the love of God in you. To put it simply, to the degree that you care for your neighbor is the degree to which God’s love is in you. This is a pretty challenging idea. As Christians, we would all claim that God’s love is in us. Isn’t that kind of the first step or evidence of our Christian life - that God’s love is in us as a result of the gift of Jesus Christ?
John refuses to accept this assumption. In this passage he encourages his readers to look for proof of God’s love. This proof comes from how much they care for their neighbor. We shouldn’t mistake this for some sort of “works righteousness.” This is a “because” or “as a result of” statement. We love our neighbor because of God’s love for us; we love our neighbor as a result of God’s love for us.
So John lays a challenge at our feet here. The challenge is to look at our lives to reflect on the presence of God’s love in our lives and how it is reflected in caring for our neighbors. Ask yourself this question: when was the last time you knew of a friend’s need and met it? If you can’t think of the last time, that’s a problem. Don’t worry, you’re not condemned; but you do need to be active in knowing your neighbor’s needs and filling them as a result of the love of God in your life. Don’t ignore John’s challenge today - put the focus on others as Christ in his sacrifice put the focus on us.