Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4: 7

 

People want to be loved and to give love. It is something that we seek after and pursue with great energy and, at times, with singular focus. It is also something that we get very wrong, for broken relationships and heartache are very common. We expect that we will be frustrated and saddened by the way that these sorts of feelings change and turn sad for us. This process of feeling strong emotion in both friendship and in romance is a part of growing into adulthood, and so is that aspect of it all wherein those relationships end and so we learn to move on to the anticipation of other, new relationships. Some of us are able to settle into friendships and romances that last for the duration of our lives, and some of us never find those people who are with us throughout the journey that is ahead.

 

It seems that John has learned to see love from a different point of view. His understanding of love is that it starts with God and then is poured out into and over people. When John addresses his audience as beloved, he is referring to the fact that he loves them because God loves them and also because God loves him in an abundant and unending manner. When Jesus summoned the young man named John from his good life as a fisherman and called him to follow along the hard road in the company of the Messiah, that was an act performed and perpetuated by love. John’s entire life from that day forward was defined by the love that he saw Jesus pour out onto the world so that John continued to do the same for the remainder of his long and productive life. In many respects, the verse here could have been John’s so-called life verse, for it exemplifies the way that Christ led him to think, feel, and act in every aspect of his life.

 

Now John is granting us insight into the eternal wisdom that has guided his journey. God truly loves every one of us, and He desires that we would turn to Him in order to become close and intimate with Him. In Christ, we can know a love that has no limits, that sets no conditions, and that will not become cold and distant. Through the presence of Christ in us we can learn to love in this same manner, and this is the love that can change the way that we engage with the rest of the world. First, like John, we must accept the reality of being loved by God, of being His beloved daughter or son, for it is this love that softens our rough edges and grants us the gift of grace that makes it possible to accept and to learn to love a wide range of other people. Then we can give the love that we are receiving away and pour it out into the world around us. It is God’s love that provides balance to righteousness, and Christ’s love gives us a heavenly perspective on mercy, justice, and seeking after peace in these troubled days. In Christ we are given such an exquisite abundance of love that its overflowing from us can break down walls of division, overturn political rancor, and bring peace where enmity has always ruled the day.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God,

1 John 4: 7

 

On the surface of it this sounds like a rather simple idea for in the church we certainly do love each other. We are nice, pleasant, polite, and accepting of others. We are agreeable and let past wrongs be in the past, too. Yet, much of this nicety is located on the very outermost layer of skin that is truly on the surface. It has nothing to do with our hearts and our minds. While smiling and shaking hands in fellowship, frequently we are running a sort of continuous loop recording of our animosity, fear, distrust, and distaste for the very person we are embracing.

 

In fact, it seems to me that love is not polite. Love does not seek to charm and to ingratiate. Love does not let the sleeping dogs of hurts tendered and received just lie there sleeping. For, as we look at God’s approach to loving people, we can not help but see engagement. God is so involved with us that He came to live among us even after we had rebelled against that close relationship during its formative days. Jesus deliberately stepped into the middle of our world’s chaos and our personal messiness, and He brought truth, grace, mercy, and love to this world. Then, even as we murdered the Son of God, the Father granted us His continuing presence in the person of Christ’s Spirit. In all of this there is nothing but deep, real, and engaged love.

 

That is what the Apostle John is bringing to our attention. The ability to love from deep within while not compromising righteousness and truth comes from God. This is a love that does not hold onto the past but rather submits those hurts, pain, and fears to God and that seeks His wisdom in resolving them. This from of love is genuine. It honors our emotional responses to life as a gift from God while not allowing emotion to rule us and to disrupt our relationships. Loving as Christ does is risky in that it requires us to fully surrender ourselves to God and to submit to His will in areas of greatest personal vulnerability. Yet, it is genuine, deep-seated love that binds us together in the eternal family that is the Body of Christ.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4: 7

 

We have been told that “what the world needs is love” and “love is what makes the world go around.” We can whistle, hum, and sing these words all day long, but do we believe them? The real challenge comes into play when we need to demonstrate that we actually believe that we are loved greatly; truly accept the love that others have for us; or give it unconditionally to anyone else. It is when we are faced with fully living out lives of love that most of us fall short.

 

Loving others and accepting love makes us vulnerable and we feel exposed. So we spend too much time hiding out in the bushes in fear of what God and others may see when he comes upon our exposed nakedness. Of course, God has already seen everything, and He has already committed to love us totally. Still, when we see someone who is in pain, tears welling in the eyes, we turn away as we pretend to hear our named being called from across the room. There is the co-worker whose life is falling apart, and we nod and give an empty reassurance that “it will all work out”; then, we try to be certain that we are not alone with that person again.

 

Yes, it is true that the world needs love. That has always been true; yet, it is a basic truth of nature that God has always met every real need that exists. We were created with loving care, and our Creator has loved us absolutely ever since. We need to accept that fact and to accept our responsibility to open our hearts to others. The willingness to care for those around us in this risky, very vulnerable manner is one of those attributes that should distinguish those who know Christ from others. Consider who you will seek out today to care about, to listen to, to get to know better. Pray for the courage to step into the pain that is in another’s heart. In Christ, we are called upon to live so that others can truly “know we are Christians because of our love”.