1 John 4: 7 – 21 (NLT)
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first.
20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.”
In 14 verses, the word love is used 27 times! I guess we should pay attention, wouldn’t you say?
John starts by emphasizing that God is the source of love; a major characteristic of God is love. The proof of that is that Jesus came into the world as a sacrifice for sin. He didn’t have to do that. We don’t merit it; we didn’t earn it in some way; he didn’t owe it to us as a reward for something. God did that because he loved us even though we were a mess.
No one has seen God. He is a spiritual being. However, in human history, some people saw Jesus, God in human form. John was one of those people. He knew beyond a doubt from his life with Jesus, that God is love. In John’s gospel, John mentions that he was the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13: 23). I don’t think he was saying that he was a special, favourite disciple. He was overwhelmed that God loved him – loved him personally in spite of who he was. But, John now says that people today see God’s love through us. We are the visible evidence that God is love. Wow! That is a challenge! The way I love is the way people around me get to know God!
Am I up to that challenge? Likely not. But – “God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us … God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect” (v. 13; 16 – 17). God is the one who empowers me, grows me to be a more loving person.
When I look at myself, I see a person who is definitely imperfect in loving others. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit I often live more for my own comfort and pleasure than for loving/helping others. How am I going to face God someday knowing I should have been more loving? John assures us that we don’t have to fear facing God. God is love and he is living in us and growing us to love more. His love for us has no limit – “perfect love expels all fear” (v. 18).
If I understand God’s love for me, that makes such a difference! Do you worry about not living up to God’s standards? Somewhere down deep, do you think you need to do things to please God and be accepted by him? Do you look around you and think to yourself that you are not as good as the other people you meet at church? GOD LOVES YOU! God is love. God lives in you when you accept Jesus as the one who took the punishment for your sin. God’s love flows through you more each day as you depend more and more on the Holy Spirit living in you.
So – what is the practical side of all this? We as Christ followers should be known for our love for others. John frequently mentions that we should love one another – that is love the other people in our church, and other Christians no matter where they live. “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3: 17 – 18). How we treat other Christians is a demonstration to the world around us of God’s love. Do others see my church as a safe place where people are accepted, loved and cared for? John says that “we live like Jesus here in this world” (v. 17). Do I love others no matter what they are like just as Jesus did? When I meet someone I’d rather avoid, do I accept them knowing God loves them just as much as he loves me?
I think that when I start to comprehend how much God loves me, I am more willing to love others. Take a moment and think about yourself – the things you know that you mess up. God loves you no matter what. Really praise him and thank him for that love. You are his child. You belong to him. From that acceptance, you can love others.
“We love each other because he loved us first” (v. 19).
Our song for today is The Love of God by Mercy Me