Success and Sacrifice
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. 1 John 3:16
During a summer study program, my son read a book about a boy who wanted to climb an Alpine mountain in Switzerland. Practicing for this goal occupied most of his time. When he finally set off for the summit, things didn’t go as planned. Partway up the slope, a teammate became sick and the boy decided to stay behind to help instead of achieving his goal.
In the classroom, my son’s teacher asked, “Was the main character a failure because he didn’t climb the mountain?” One student said, “Yes, because it was in his DNA to fail.” But another child disagreed. He reasoned that the boy was not a failure, because he gave up something important to help someone else.
When we set aside our plans and care for others instead, we’re acting like Jesus. Jesus sacrificed having a home, reliable income, and social acceptance to travel and share God’s truth. Ultimately, He gave up His life to free us from sin and show us God’s love (1 John 3:16).
Earthly success is much different from success in God’s eyes. He values the compassion that moves us to rescue disadvantaged and hurting people (v. 17). He approves of decisions that protect people. With God’s help, we can align our values with His and devote ourselves to loving Him and others, which is the most significant achievement there is.
By Jennifer Benson Schuldt
REFLECT & PRAY
How has the quest for success affected your life? Why is it sometimes difficult to align our values with what matters to God?
Heavenly Father, I want to be successful in Your eyes. Teach me how to love others the way You love me.
John is sometimes referred to as the apostle of love. Much of the gospel that bears his name as well as his letters focus on the topic of love. Today’s passage has elements of both identification and application. Love in action—that takes concrete steps to express itself—identifies believers in Jesus, those who have “passed from death to life” (1 John 3:14).
To show what love looks like, John gives examples of love in action from the Old Testament, the life of Jesus, and the teaching of Jesus. Love doesn’t behave like Cain, who killed his own brother (v. 12; see Genesis 4:1–16). Instead, it emulates Jesus who gave up His life (1 John 3:16). Finally, love provides for the physical needs of others, as shown in the story of the Good Samaritan (v. 17; see Luke 10:25–37).