I had the opportunity to preach yesterday from 1 John 3:11-24, the main point of which is “love one another.”  The bulk of what I said related to the two examples of love John gives – the negative example of Cain, who was a murderer because of guilt and jealousy, and the positive example of Jesus, who died for others.  I defined dying like Jesus as follows: to joyfully and sacrificially give to those in need regardless of the cost or the merit of the recipient.  When we love others, we die to ourselves and our selfish desires.

But does that mean we are doormats for other people?  Do we get taken advantage of?  I think the answer in part is “Yes.”  Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest companions, people exploited his divine powers for a free meal (John 6), he was completely innocent in a trial that resulted in a death sentence, and more.  So loving others in self-sacrificing ways may result in getting walked on.  We embrace that because our Master was walked on and because the only way a man can gain his life is to lose it for Christ’s sake (Mk. 8:34-35).

The other part of the answer is, not surprisingly, “No.”  The definition of love for others I gleaned from the passage leaves room for standing firm.  Jesus is the example given, and He was not always taken advantage of – given his divinity, he was never taken advantage of in the sense that he was in a situation He could not control.  He provided that free meal at the beginning of John 6, but he called out the people’s selfish motives in the latter part of the chapter, refused to offer them more food, and caused many people to walk away.  The other example everyone will appeal to is when he cleaned house at the temple.  It would be incorrect to say that those acts and others were not love.  In our minds, love has become only doing nice, sweet, things; so loving others is to be a “softie” in all situations.

But love can be seen in rebuke, calling out sin, or allowing people to suffer the consequences of their sin.  Love can be found in a righteous, god-honoring kick-in-the pants.  Such bold love often is self-sacrificing.  The cost may be a friendship.  You might get physically harmed for standing for truth or telling your friend they are acting contrary to the gospel, not to mention the fact that everyone would rather keep silent about another person’s faults than courageously call out their failure.  But to withhold such acts of tough-love is to be unloving.  Proverbs 27:6 says it well: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

So does loving others like Jesus, dying for others, mean that you have be a doormat?  Yes and No.  We trust God’s Spirit to guide us and remember that an act of love is not always easy to identify: you can turn the other cheek and you can wound others in love, both with God-honoring, joy-filled, self-sacrificing love.