1 John 4:13-21 “A Generous Heart”
Living a life without limits, and being transformed into that life is all based on love. Without love there is only a shadow of life and certainly no great actions of faith or courage.
Unfortunately, love is not as common as we assume it is. It is not like the clean air that we breathe or the fresh water that we enjoy. Love that is centered on others must first be experienced in order to be expressed. To love we must first be loved, and to love others we need to love ourselves (self-esteem) (Mark 12:31). We must be taught how to demonstrate love, also. It doesn’t come naturally.
This passage that we are studying in 1 John tells us how we experience God’s love and how that transforms us into people with generous hearts.
WE ARE LOVED
The tabloids and evening news are full of stories of what we are lacking. We don’t get enough fruits and vegetables, vitamin D, or Omega 3 fats. One of the vital elements of life that the news seems to avoid is love. I think we are loved starved. We often wonder if we are loved. We crave a loving touch and to hear the words, “I love you.” We never seem to get enough unconditional, non-judgmental love—love usually comes with a price.
We wonder if God really loves us. We question God’s love when life isn’t fair, and when we encounter difficult times. We rationalize that if God really did love us he would keep all pain and suffering away from us.
John writes that his readers, Christians, have experienced God’s love. It has become more than something they have read about in a letter, or in stories about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Love has become real to them. They have seen and testify to the world that because of love God sent Jesus into the world. Christians have received the Holy Spirit—God’s presence in us and our presence in God. And by abiding in God (through the Holy Spirit) we have experienced love—in fact we are immersed in love.
It is this love that births transformation and enables us to live a life without limits. It is living in this love that enables us to be humbly courageous and have generous hearts.
EVERYTHING A GIFT
Without love our lives become a series of rewards and punishments. We work hard for what we have. No one is looking out for us except ourselves, and being self-centered is the key to survival and success.
As Christians, though, we know that we are loved. God demonstrates his love for us not only in sending his son, Jesus to suffer and die for us, but also by providing and protecting us. Martin Luther writes in his explanation to the first article of the Apostles’ Creed that part of God’s continued creative activity in our lives is God’s provision of everything that we need for daily life.
In his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, Luther writes that when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are asking God to help us receive all his gifts with gratitude and thanksgiving.
Love leads to gratitude and gratitude leads to generous hearts.
Only those people who are loved and blessed can be generous.
Love is not something that is meant to be saved up and cherished. Monuments to love do not enable us to live lives without limits.
Love is meant to be shared. We who have been loved by God are now commanded to love others. If we say that we love God but hate others, our love for God is questionable. Love of others is expressed in words of praise, encouragement, constructive criticism, and solace. Love is demonstrated in by loving actions—caring for those in need and using our time and talents to serve others.
Our love is creative. We don’t focus on what we can’t do, but rather on how we can follow God’s command to love others.
During these difficult times, it is easy to doubt God’s love and to curtail our generosity. God’s command is constant, though. We are not called to love when we have enough; we are invited to love with what we have. Accepting this invitation allows us to truly experience a transformed life without limits—the abundant life that God wants for each and every one of us.