The Way of Love
Read 1 John 4:7-21.
Everyone seems to agree that we need more of love in our world today. People carry banners that say, “love is love”, assuming that their idea of love is obvious and universal to everyone. Without God, mankind’s idea of love can differ wildly from person to person, especially between different cultures. In the West, what is loving is to affirm and acknowledge their deepest personal desire. It tends to be very individualistic. In other cultures, what is loving is to affirm and acknowledge the person’s responsibilities and duties to the “tribe” that they belong to. It’s less about the person, but more about the person’s standing within that group. What does the Bible say?
In our passage today, the apostle John calls us to love one another. However, instead of leaving it for everybody to figure out what he means by “love”, he anchors that command in God’s love for us. “Love comes from God”, and therefore we should love one another (v7). God himself is love, and how he loved us is “by sending his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (v9-10) This small detail shows us that there is a particular “concreteness” to God’s love for the world. God did not just “love” the world by his emotions. There was a determined action and response on the part of God to do something for the world out of love. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (v10)
It is only by understanding that true love is based upon what God has done for us through Christ by the Spirit, that we can truly love another. Before that, our “love” is oftentimes mixed in with selfish motivation or reasons. It is almost never unconditional because of our sins. God has to show us what unconditional love looks like – through the giving of his Son. Because of this, we don’t have to fear God anymore.
This is why when we become followers of Christ, we are called to love one another. We are able to and we are commanded to love, because God first loved us (v19). It’s not mere emotional love, but rather a committed love like God’s for the wellbeing of the other person. If we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, God lives in us and we in God. God’s love should be made manifest in our lives. While here on earth, it is almost impossible for us to have a “pure” love, God has given us a standard that we can aim for.
Christmas is the concrete evidence of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Love came down from heaven to save his people from their sins. If there is ever a time when you doubt God’s love for you, look at Jesus Christ. Look at his birth, life, death, and resurrection. Let that reality sink deep into your heart, and then begin to love others as God has loved you. What better day or season to start than during Christmas?
- Pray that we will learn to love others in the way that God has loved us – not in affirming all their deepest desires, but in commitment for the good and welfare of the other
- Pray that we may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (cf. Eph 3:14-19)