“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” 1 John 3:10
These two requirements for being God’s child seem really harsh. Who is able to do what is right ALL the time? Even the Apostle, Paul, said that the good he wanted to do was not what he did – that it was the bad he did not want to do that he ended up doing. And who really loves his brother and sister (defined by Jesus as people God places around you, not just blood relatives)? Sometimes I have difficulty loving my own family as I should, much less a cantankerous stranger. Does failure on these two criteria mean I am really not a child of God?
I believe John was trying to demonstrate the importance of our faith lining up with our actions, particularly when our actions reflect on Who Jesus is. Unfortunately, a lot of non-Christians want nothing to do with Jesus, because we are such poor examples. James put it this way: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Ja 2:26) Many of us Christians can quote chapter and verse of do’s and don’ts, but fail to demonstrate those same things in our own lives. If we are serious about being children of God, we have a responsibility to judge our actions and words to determine if they line up with the heart of Jesus. That means I must be judging myself, not a brother or sister in Christ, and definitely not an unbeliever. Why is it always much easier to see the failings of others than it is to see my own?
If my words and actions do not line up with the character of Jesus, then I have a problem. It is actually a heart-problem. Jesus explained that whatever is on the inside of us automatically drives our behavior. Sometimes, we can push through to the right thing by determining ahead of time the way we should be treating people. But, there will always be that one person who is so offensive to us, we can’t go the distance. I mean I tried – that person was a jerk – they’re not wanting or deserving of the benevolent love I have to offer. It’s their own fault!
Just like that, I have exposed what was in my heart. I can do what is right and love others when they line up with me. But when I fail at either, I point the finger, instead of looking at my own heart-issues. Could it actually be that I am not capable of extending the unconditional love that Jesus modeled? To the degree my heart is wounded, or I have something to prove or earn, or I have biases from my life experiences, the sad answer is yes. Unfortunately, we all fit into that category in some form.
The good news is that our ineptitudes have not taken God by surprise, nor does He disqualify us for having them. But He wants us to acknowledge them, so that we can intentionally give them to Him. He is the Redeemer of every failing, every wound. In placing our heart-junk in His hands, we have made room for more of Him. Perhaps now, we can see others through His eyes, and love them with His heart – purity that frees us to be His children.