“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:10-12 NIV
I had the opportunity to read through 1 John recently and two major themes stood out to me. 1. Those that love God obey him. Those that love God love others. Later on that day, I went to a leader’s conference and the theme of God’s love for others, both in the world and in the church was proclaimed. God really began to challenge me and to really think about what does it really mean to love others. Is it just something we say? Is it just showing care and concern every once in a while? Am I really loving others the way God intended me too?
Eventually, 1 John 4:10-12 stood out. This is not an unfamiliar portion of scripture. I have been told time and time again that if we say we love God, then we must love one another. We’ve all heard it. It’s not an option. It’s a command. And to a certain degree, I believe I truly love and care for people. I have a genuine concern for others and want to see them grow.
But then the scripture describes the kind of love that goes beyond that. It’s more than just, I have concern for you, I like to hang with you or just giving hugs and showing an interest in each others lives. The love that is described by God is found in Jesus Christ. It is found in the cross. It is the Father’s willingness to send His Son and His Son’s willingness to lay down his life for our sins. And to top it all off, the Father and the Son do this irregardless of the fact that we didn’t love him first.
Can you imagine that? I don’t love you. As a matter of fact, I’m fighting against you. . I don’t really want to have anything to do with you. I could care less about you. I might even reject or hurt youand yet you give up your life for me? That is a love unlike any other. And yet, that is the kind of love God has and is calling us to.
Now I can hear some of the thoughts coming now as you read this? But what about this person? What if they just use you and abuse you? What if they really do hurt you? etc. etc. The thing I’ve come to realize is this: Love always involves risk. You can love someone, but honestly there is no guarantee that they will love you back the same way. As a matter of fact, if you’re doing something in expectation that they will do that in return, then we have to question whether or not it’s truly love. Throughout the Old Testament you see God showing his love to Israel even though they would repeatedly reject him. Even though he knew they would mess up, he still loved them.
Now if you’re anything like me, you are thinking “I don’t know if I can do this.” Well 1 John 4:12 gives us hope. We can do this through God’s Spirit. As God lives in us and works in us, he causes us to grow and become more like him. The more we become like him, the more we are able to love. If we love, it’s basically because God is in us and His Spirit works through us to love. The real key to loving others is loving God and understanding his love for us. We submit to God, basque in his love and grace, and then we will be more than willing to share that same love with others, even if it cost us.
Love does cost something. It cost the Father his Son. It cost the Son having to experience death. But the blessings of those payments are still being seen today. What would it look like if what we do even in our homes, churches, and communities is motivated not just because we feel called or it’s something we like to do or feel good doing. What if we did it simply because we are so in love with God and as a result, we want to share that love with others? How would our worship change? How would our families change? How would our ministry change? How would our serving change? How would our communities change?
Brothers and sisters, I believe in this year, God is calling us to truly love each other.