Summary: This wonderful section of scripture on the Love of God and our Love for others is explained by way of an extended analogy. God is like a "car guy" who sees a "classic" in a rust bomb. We must have the same eyes when we consider others.
Have you ever known one of those guys who are into restoring cars? Most of us do. They scour the junkyards and the abandoned farmsteads of the midwest looking for old wrecks. When you we see a dilapidated old rust bomb sitting out in a field with weeds growing through the rusty floorboards they see a classic car. Though there is no paint remaining, they imagine that there is. Though the tires have long since rotted away, they see it in white side walls. Though the seats are nothing but rusty springs, they see them with perfectly stitched and piped upholstery. They giggle like little children on Christmas morning when they find such a wreck. As they haul them home on big trailers, they do so with big smiles on their faces. They smile even though they realize they’ve taken on a big project. They smile even though they know They will invest countless hours and no small amount of money to bring it back to life. But they will do it. And we don’t understand them.
But when, at the last, we see their perfectly restored car driving down the road, we finally do understand. We finally see what they always saw. Everybody is delighted at the sight of a perfectly restored car. Everybody’s head turns, everybody smiles and says “That’s cool.” Wherever they park, they gather crowds.
Well, God is kind of like one of those car guys. He sees each person, no matter how broken, no matter how morally decayed, as valuable, important, and worth saving. He remembers what they were meant to be. He remembers his original design for them when he knit them together in their mother’s wombs. He remembers his original design for each person and he works to restore them to that design.
And he spares no expense. John put it this way in the text: “This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The restoration begins when God gives them his holy Spirit and they come to faith in Jesus. With that, he takes them out of destructive elements and brings them into the loving care of his “garage”, the Holy Christian church. They are saved. But it doesn’t end there. Having been saved, the Lord begins to work at rebuilding their lives. He sanctifies them through the application of his word and by the power of the Holy Spirit. All of their lives become a time of restoration.
At the end of time, when all is completed and Jesus returns, these “classic” people, the people whom God designed and built and then restored will be revealed in all their glory. On that day everybody’s head will turn, everybody will smile and see what God has always seen in them. Not all will be the same. As a matter of fact, no two will be alike. But all of them will be classics, worthy of admiration. So it will be when the “sons of god are revealed”. (Rom. 8:18)
But in this text, John speaks to us where we are now. He speaks to make us more aware of who we are and who other people are. As people who believe in Jesus and are saved by grace, we are now in the “garage” of our creator. He is now using the events and people of our lives to weld, sand, grind and polish us. And among the many things that need to be fixed in us is Love. Love was meant to be an integral part of our “Chassis”! And in this text John is tweaking us; bringing to our recollection how we personally have benefitted from Love, and more specifically the Love of God. If John were speaking in the terms I’m using today he’d be saying: “Hey, God loved you, You’ve experienced God’s love! You were the wreck out in the field! You were the one who was destined to rust away to nothing. But out of love for you, God found you and introduced you to his Son Jesus who died for your sins.” “You ought to be loving others who are in the same situation as you”