I love my brother. He’s a couple of years older than me, and definitely wiser. I remember a time when I was a preschooler, and I was in daycare after school. As I was playing inside the giant cement tunnel in the lower playground at St. Marks Episcopal, I came face-to-face with my first “bully.” I am not sure, but I think his name was Jimmy Spears (yep, it sounds ominous because it was). He was a few grades older than me, and maybe a grade above my brother. He called me “kid” and you know how that sets me off (see Session 3). Anyway, I was being harassed for no apparent reason and I felt trapped. I didn’t even know he was around, but I remember my brother appearing out of nowhere. I don’t recall if it got physical, but if it did, I know the scuffle ended with heroic music, Spears on his rear-end, and my brother, victorious, reaching his massive first-grade arm around me to shepherd me to safety. On that day, the powers of evil were defeated. About a decade later, when my father died of colon cancer, my brother became the most important male role model in my life. It’s not like we don’t have differences or we spend every week on the phone, but deep down I know our “blood” means something. I can count on his counsel and care, but not every sibling story is the same as mine. John writes as a subject within the Roman Empire, and the city of Rome at the center of the Empire was said to be founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. One version of the myth describes them born to a princess by the god Mars and hunted by an evil uncle. Together they help defeat that uncle and found the city of Rome, but disagreeing on which hill would be best to found the city upon, Romulus kills Remus. This is a different kind of brotherhood. So far, John has reinforced proper foundational faith and ethics using familial language like “beloved” and “little children,” but here he makes a sharp distinction between two types of brotherhood, one good and one evil.
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Isaac Serrano is Lead Teaching Pastor of South Valley Community Church. He likes talking theology, history, and culture. Isaac lives in Gilroy with his family. On his days off, he likes to go fishing and venture outdoors. Isaac serves on the leadership board for the Regeneration Project and the school board of Pacific Point Christian Schools.