7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (NRSV)
|Heard it Through the Grapevine by Steven Tyler PJs on flickr. CC BY-ND 2.0|
Hopefully, that question brings a number of people to mind: parents, grandparents, spouses, children, teachers, Christians…
A loving person is always there for you—and is never too busy to share a meal or a conversation. Even if they are not wealthy, they always have much to share. Their door is always open to you. They know no distinction between stranger and friend.
Whether these persons are living or dead, their legacy is your flourishing! Not to sound cheesy, but they are “the wind beneath your wings!”
You don’t have to be a Christian to be a loving person. Nevertheless, “love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
Love must come from God—because it is more than just feelings and affection… It’s more than just being nice… It demands time and effort; patience and sacrifice. You can give everything away and get nothing in return. And hardest of all, love makes no distinction between friend or foe…
No wonder love comes from God—because human beings aren’t capable of this. Love will be the hardest thing you will ever do.
1 John was written to early Christians who were struggling greatly in this regard. Theirs was a church in crisis. These early Christians were rocked by the growing popularity of false teachers and sharp disagreements about the divinity of Jesus. You see, love is easy everything’s going well. But when life hits the dirt, love can quickly go by the wayside. It wasn’t so easy for everyone to “just get along.”
If that wasn’t enough, they were facing the kinds of conflicts and disagreements that are normal to human relationships. There would’ve been power struggles, factions, and anxiety.
But love can fall by the wayside even when things are going well! The early Church was a growing Church, after all—but the lure of power and control can quickly take precedence over the duty of love.
Whatever the case, when love is absent, the Body of Christ falls apart. The Gospel will fall silent. Life cannot flourish. And when you, as an individual fail to love, you are not flourishing. Greed and ambition, fear and anger will quickly take you over.
The author of John puts it bluntly: those who say “I love God,” and hate their brothers are sisters, are liars; for those who do not love those whom they have seen cannot love the God whom they have not seen.” To be even more blunt: “you only love God as much as the person you love least.”
And it’s never hard to find reasons not to love someone, even if they’ve never done you any harm. They’ve done nothing to merit your concern and will give you nothing in return. They don’t believe what you believe about God. They don’t conform to your standards of morality. They speak and act and dress in ways you find offensive. They seem to take more from society than they contribute. Their very presence constitutes a threat to you and your way of life.
Any more, you are conditioned by politicians and the media to feel threatened by liberals; conservatives; evangelicals; secular progressives; fundamentalists; immigrants; welfare & food stamp recipients; Blacks, Latinos, Muslims; Millennials, atheists, Jews, empowered women, you name it.
And then there’s the natural question: If I love someone, what’s in it for me? How can you love when it costs you time, money, and energy you don’t feel you have? How can you love when it means getting dirty with someone else’s pain or brokenness? How do you love someone who lives in a world you try to avoid? How do you answer conflict, rejection, and abuse with God’s love?
But did you hear the good news of this passage? “Perfect love casts out fear.” This includes fear for your safety; for the future; fear of the stranger; fear of change; fear of conflict; fear of hardship; fear of death…
God is perfect love—because God doesn’t look for reasons to say, “you’re NOT one of mine.” You don’t have to reach out to God or even believe in God in order to be loved. God knows the depths your sin and loves you anyway. God was willing to suffer hell for you on the cross and shed his body and blood for you. God’s love conquers evil and death. God’s love brings life. Living in love means nothing less than God loving others through you.
Imagine, then, if you were to approach everything that scares you, that angers you, that hurts you—with a determination to express God’s love in the midst of it. God answered sin and death with love—and by doing the same yourself, you are enacting the victory of Easter.
It’s victory when you pray for your enemies instead of hating them—and pray for God’s deliverance from evildoers.
It’s victory when two or more persons disagree and stay together—but also when adversaries graciously depart from each other for the sake of peace.
It’s victory when you give yourself away for someone who can never repay you—because love that builds up the neighbor will never leave you empty.
It’s victory when we as the Body of Christ welcome the outcasts, touch the untouchables, and embrace one another in our brokenness. God’s love is best learned by doing.
It’s victory when you can face your fears with the knowledge that God and God’s people will be waiting for you, no matter what tomorrow brings.
For where and when there is love, there is life—because there is God. God is making you alive—and creating new life where sin and death have done their worst.