I John 3:11–24. The Compassionate Heart, the Tender Conscience.

Key Notes: Love in practice is being merciful. Problems of charitable giving. How much is too much? Conscience.

In the previous lesson we learned of the seriousness of sin. John ended that passage with concern about loving our spiritual kin, our brothers and sisters in the Faith. He presses the point in this next paragraph.

3:11–12 Cain was the first to act in hatred against his brother, cutting his throat in a jealous rage. (Gen.4:8). Why? Because his deeds were evil and Abel's were righteous. Abel was approved by God; Cain was not. Hebrews11:4 adds that it was by faith that Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice, God testifying by accepting his gifts. It was probably not the kind of offering (garden products vs. animals), but the heart that made the difference. We know that garden products were given as first-fruits (Ex.23:16), and there were also prescribed grain and wine offerings. Lev.2:1

What should have Cain done when he saw that God disapproved of him?
Spiritual rejection is painful. Being dismissed from a church job can be a source of terrible distress, not only losing a job but feeling spiritually disqualified, rejected by God. Cain should have begged God for forgiveness and reconciliation.

3:13–16 Hate characterizes the World; hatred is murder. Jesus, by contrast, showed us love by laying down His life for us.

•3:15 The World hates. Hate is from the Devil (3:8); its example is Cain. Its result is murder; its outcome is spiritual death.
•3:15The Church loves. Love is from God (3:17); its example is Christ. Its result is self-sacrifice (3:16), and its outcome eternal life.

Jesus' love for us is hard to comprehend. Human loves we can deal with. We empathize with the loves of Jacob and Rachel, Jonathan and David, and David and Bathsheba. That God should love us rebels is beyond us and His love seems almost impossible to emulate.

3:17 But we can comprehend our fellow church-member in need. We cannot shut up our heart of compassion against such a one. The word for heart is really the word for our innards (Greek "splanchna"). The word means literally the gut, our innermost being. It is different from "kardia", the heart. It is the most intense of several words for mercy. In rough order of intensity, these words (in Greek) are

1.macrothymia: long-suffering, forbearance, patience. Matt.18:23-
2.oiktirmos: compassion, favor, kindness. Rom.12:1, Lk.6:36
3.eleos: pity, mercy. Lk.1:50,78
4.splanchnos: longing, "bowels of mercy". Mk.6:34, Phil.1:8, Phile.7,12,20

A parable in Matthew illustrates the use of these words.

A servant who owed a million dollars was to be sold--family and all--to pay his debt.
He begged his master for patience (macrothymia). Matt.18:25
The master was moved with compassion (splanchnos). Matt.18:27
That same servant then went to one of his fellows who owed him a hundred dollars. The fellow servant also begged for patience (macrothymia) but was denied. Matt.18:29
 The master was furious with his merciless servant and demanded to know why he had not shown mercy (eleos, not splanchnos--that would be too much to ask) for his fellow. Matt.18:33

Problems of showing mercy.

1. My charitable gift will not be used wisely.
a. The drug user will feed his habit with my money. {Give food and lodging, not cash.}
b. A corrupt leader will siphon off the money, eg. Gov't. of Sudan. {Go through the churches, not through governments.}
c. This "charity" uses 85% of its revenue for promotion and fund-raising instead of 13%.{Find a charity accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability [ECFA] label.}

2. Giving a gift is the wrong strategy.
a. People need resources, not a hand-out. Give a hook and line, not a fish. {But I have no resources to give.}
b. People need to work for themselves. (What about single mothers?)

3. Sometimes expectations are unrealistic.
a. East Germans expected philanthropy from West Germany after the Berlin Wall went down.
b. "You don't love me like my mother did." "What haven't you been a  father to me?" "Why don't you scratch my itch?"

Some acts of mercy are proper and well-received:
•The Marshall Plan. Care packages for Europeans after WWII. Rescue of Bosnia and Kosovo.
•In life-boats, the order is "women and children first".
•Kidney donation to a relative or friend is an act of great sacrifice.
•Food pantries, Project Angel Tree, Prison Fellowship, World Vision, Samaritan's Purse are effective charities.

The bottom line is a fellow believer in dire need. We cannot say "if a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food" "'go in peace, be warmed and filled' without giving them the things needed for the body...." (Jm.2:15–16)

Have we given? You know the rule of thumb: 20% of the people give 80% of the money and do 80% of the work. Seventy percent of the congregation gives little or nothing to the work of the Church.
Have we given enough? How would we know, short of giving it all? John reads our thoughts and brings us to the next thought.

3:19–21 We reassure our heart before Him whenever our hearts condemn us, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God. "God's book comforts the downcast." The overly sensitive conscience is soothed by God. "As a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He know our frame; He remembers that we are dust" (Psa.103:13). So even if our hearts condemn us, we may not be guilty.

Some people use their conscience as a weapon against themselves, beating themselves, perhaps to prevent themselves from repeating an old sin. God has a different method for dealing with our sin, giving us forgiveness and the Holy Spirit to help us put to death the Old Nature.

3:22–24. A resolution for the conscience is that we have confidence in God when we obey the commandments (IJn.3:22), believe in the Name of Jesus (3:23), and love each other (3:23).

Obedience, faith and love are linked. This linkage amounts to abiding in Him and assures us of answered prayer.