“Love one another.”

Thirteen times in his letters, the apostle John instructed his readers to love one another. John explained why loving others is so important: it communicates our faith in Jesus to the world, it is an act of obedience to God, and it brings joy to ourselves and others. As we love others we grow in our understanding of God’s love for us and for the world.

These three letters were written almost two-thousand years ago by a man who walked, talked, laughed, and cried with Jesus. John’s message is relevant to us today because it teaches us how to live like Jesus lived, how to love like Jesus loved, and how our joy will be made complete in Him.

The letters of 1, 2, and 3 John are widely accepted as written by John the beloved apostle, who also wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelation. After Paul and Peter were martyred, around AD 67, John moved to Ephesus where he wrote these letters. Many scholars date John’s Gospel and his three letters to sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and before John’s exile on the island of Patmos in AD 95.

While they were written with different intentions and to different audiences, each of John’s short letters communicate a consistent theme: love. First John explores the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ and the unity believers can enjoy when they share the love of Christ. Second John offers encouragement to be faithful to the truth of who Christ is and what He has done for us. Third John reminds us to keep Christ at the center of our hearts, minds, and missions.

In these three letters, we find encouragement to follow God’s commandments and remain in Him. John explored the deep connection between obedience and love by showing how our love for God is nothing without His love for us. We love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). As we seek to love God greatly with our lives, let’s study John’s words that give us instruction and encouragement to do just that.

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