A shallow faith views service as something we do. A fuller faith views servanthood as a way we live.
Scripture - 1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him?
Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.
Unpack It! 1 John is one of the letters in the New Testament written by someone other than the Apostle Paul. Written by the same author as the Gospel of John, and around the year 100 CE, it was meant to combat a rising theology in that day called docetism, which held that Christ did not really come in the flesh, but only in spirit. John’s commitment to a God made flesh impacted his view of what it meant to live a life of faith. He concludes that a faith that is simply about thinking and feeling, but not about doing, is razor thin. To be truly faithful Christians, we must love not only in our beliefs and words, but in our actions as well.
Discussing the Text
What do you think about John’s remark that if we see someone in need and don’t help, then we don’t really love God? Is setting a standard that is too high? Are we supposed to help literally everyone around us who asks for help?
John also says to love with action and truth instead of words and speech. Are words and speech not important?
In your own life, when has it been easy to say something, but difficult to do something?
Note for Class Leader: At some point in this discussion, it may be good to offer a theological clarification that we are saved by faith and not by works. Our actions of service in the world are not what save us in the end, only Jesus’ sacrifice does that. But it is our belief in Jesus that should compel us to serve the world around us. Simply put: if we don’t volunteer as Sunday School Teacher, we’re not going to hell, but if our faith never leads us to serve sacrificially, maybe we don’t have the faith we think we do.
Questions for Deeper Faith
Is there a certain person or cause that God has put on your heart? What is it? How have you gotten involved in that passion in the past? How could you grow in your support?
What do you think it means to “live a life of service?” Is there anything that keeps you from living this way?
It’s not always easy to be mindful of the needs around us. What are some ways we can stay “tuned in” to what the people around us need?
What is something you believe that you think needs to be turned into action? Put another way, what’s something you are tired of thinking about and ready to do?
God of all Strength, you humbled yourself in the form of Jesus Christ to show us a better way to live. You served your people when we ought to serve you, you loved those whom we ignored, you proved your love through the gift of your life on the cross. In our daily lives, help us to be mindful of the needs felt every day in the world around us. Allow us to have compassion and care for those whom you already know and love. Make us vehicles of your love in our homes, our workplaces, and our communities. Challenge us to make our lives devoted to service and love in your name, the one who serves and loves us, Jesus the Christ, Amen.