Summary: One of the basic instructions of Jesus is to love one another. Love is the demonstration that we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us.
1 John 4:7-21 “The Look of Love”
I read today’s lesson and I was overwhelmed by the number of times that the word “love” appeared. The Beatles song, “All You Need is Love,” popped into my mind and I wondered if this passage of scripture might have been the inspiration for that song—and countless others.
When we use a word frequently, its meaning often morphs and we begin to define it in a manner that was not originally intended. I think this has happened with the word, “love.” We need to clarify that the writer of this letter is not referring to that type of gushy romantic love so often portrayed by Hollywood. Nor does the writer mean the squishy love that grandparents have for their grandchildren.
The love that the writer of the first letter of John has in mind is much more challenging and much more powerful. It is a life changing/world changing type of love.
LOVE IS COSTLY
The central truth of this passage of scripture is that God is love (vs. 8). God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might live through him (vs. 9). By showing God’s love for us in the person of Jesus, God demonstrates that love is costly; it is sacrificial.
I don’t like to hear this truth. I am basically “tight” and I don’t like the word “costly.” I really am not attracted to pain and suffering, so I really don’t like the word “sacrificial,” either. At the same time, there is a noble challenge to these words. There is the call to live my life for something bigger than myself; to have a bigger purpose than simply making a living.
There are many pictures of costly love around us:
• Sharing our financial resources with others through Desert Streams or other ministries,
• Giving our time to volunteer to serve others—Feed My Starving Children, Habitat for Humanity and Moppets,
• Going out of our way to help a neighbor,
• Taking the time to listen to the cares and concerns of a co-worker.
LOVE TAKES PLACE IN COMMUNITY
The letter of 1 John is written to a community. The love that the writer describes is love that is expressed in community—both the community of faith and the community in which the first Christians lived.
I have discovered that it is easier for me to love the needy children in Africa than it is for me to love some of my extended family. I have also come to realize that I am better able to love some members of my family if they are farther away rather than close by. As someone once said, “I love my family; that’s why I’m in Arizona and they are in Texas.”
In a faith community; a Christian congregation’s distance is not a possibility. We pray and sing songs together. We study and serve together. It is easy for us to be offended inadvertently by a brother or sister in Christ. We can have our feelings hurt, and we can allow the habits of others to annoy us.
Or we can love. We can express our love in forgiveness and patience. Rather than focus on our own wants and desires, we can raise our eyes and see the needs of others. The love God calls us to is not an easy love. Sometimes it is very difficult to love some people. But remember, sometimes it is very difficult for others to love you, too.
LOVE REQUIRES COMMITMENT
We have a God who loves us. Nothing will ever change God’s commitment to love us, nor separate us from it. We are challenged to have commitment as a characteristic of our love.
I often ask couples during my wedding sermons if love is an attitude or a feeling. Usually they say it is a feeling, and I gently remind them that usually in the Bible love is an attitude—from the Ten Commandments, to the Beatitudes, to the letters of John. In reality, love is both a feeling and an attitude, but when you don’t have the feeling, you better nurture the attitude.
There are times when it is difficult to feel love for our spouse or significant other. A couple in Iowa was celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary. They were holding hands, kissing and getting about as lovey dovey as an older couple can get. During the course of the party/reception, one of the grand kids went up to his grandfather and asked him, “Gramps, did you ever think of divorcing Grandma?” With a twinkle in his eye Gramps replied, “No, I never thought of divorce. Once or twice I thought about murder, but never divorce.”
Love, wherever it is found, takes commitment. Such commitment comes from experiencing God’s commitment to us. The Bible calls it “steadfast love.” Even during the rebelliousness of Israel or the church, God’s love never wavered. It was steadfast. God’s love for us is steadfast, also.