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photo: weekly graphics: Martha G. Brady

photo: weekly snaps
graphics: Martha G. Brady

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.

Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  

This is how God showed his love among us:

He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us 

and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another,

God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.  

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  

There is no fear in love.

But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us.  

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. 

For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, 

cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  

And he has given us this command: 

Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

I John 4:7-21 (NIV)

The question comes up as we look at this section: Which test of the three that we keep going over is the most important? Yes, we can call it an illegitimate question because in some ways it is, but if there had to be a priority of one out of the three areas: moral test which is righteousness, social test which is love for each other or doctrinal test which is the test of truth or belief that Jesus Christ is GOD incarnate, which is most important?

Naturally, all three are very important and need to be present but if we are asking to see which we lack most that may clarify the question most easily. We need love to give to those around us. It so not native to us. The self-sacrificing kind of love certainly isn’t for sure! It is this kind of love that John talks about so much in this book as the thing that sets us apart as those who belong to Christ!

Is it any wonder that in this land of many churches, there tends to be such a lack in this as a part of our “brand”? Yet that is what John speaks about so much in this book!

While I don’t agree with some of the stances in our gay community, and many of the other places where people feel disenfranchised…the poor, homeless, single moms, minorities, etc. I am sad to say that the trademark of many of our churches has not been one of agape love! At least that hasn’t been what we have communicated.

Yes, there are many reasons. I’m not planning to go there now…it is a bit off the track, but we often concentrate so easily on the righteous living and truth to the exclusion of love. It is much easier...I know it is for me!

I have friends and some family members that are gay. It isn’t easy to convey the love as easily as it is to convey the truth sides of things…especially when you rarely see them. I do know that listening more often than speaking helps. I learn a lot that way. But then what?

Back to our lesson today. Can you tell I had a conversation this morning? They always leave me provoked in thought way more than having answers. I know there are answers. I just don’t know what they are. I also know that actions speak way louder than words. But what those actions are? I’m not sure about that either.

Let us love-vss. 7-11

Which only brings home the point that many of us in the orthodox and moral part of the Christian church can be prone to forgetting, often underemphasizing this important passage of John’s. He keeps underlining it for a reason. It’s not that no one has trouble living a righteous life.  We do. But we know the rules. We know what we need to do. And we know the truth of who Jesus is. These two areas tend to involve our heads much more than love does.

It hits our heart. It hits the place where our feelings have been hurt, often deeply by another person. We don’t want to forgive. We don’t want to understand where they are coming from. We either want to attack them or avoid them for what they did…or what we think they did to us or ours.

The kind of love we need to show them is not the natural kind. It is the so NOT natural kind that only can come from GOD. It isn’t based on a warm fuzzy feeling. Or a feeling at all…except love and thansgiving to GOD for what He has done for us!

As GOD’s child, I now have His Spirit alive in me, living out His love to others. It is a love that is natural to His nature, not mine. Since my words are piling up already, I won’t go into the detail here that Boice does in the book.  You can read it here in his book.

One section I will comment in a little detail is found in vs. 12.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, 

God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

It is a reminder that no one has seen GOD in person. Our love for each other inside the Church…that overflows outside, is their chance to get a glimpse of GOD in the flesh as He lives His nature out through us! That is the strongest apologetic for our faith that exists!

Arguing is not going to do it!

GOD abides in us-vss. 13-16

There is another mysterious thing that happens. As we love others with the love of Christ (that abides in us as we abide in Him) His love is completed in us. I don’t understand what that means completely. I just know it happens. I think this means that both Christ’s love for me is completed AND my ability to love others is completed more and more.

If you are like me, you would rather have to work harder keeping rules than to have to love some of the people GOD has called you to love. But that is how it is! If we are in the family, He has called us to love our brothers and sisters. And it is not a matter of stoicly gutting out the love, but rather living out a love that isn’t native to us. It is not a fake, sweet, pretend kind of thing. It is a real, honest, blatant, vulnerable love that doesn’t try to pretend to be something I’m not, but is the person GOD has made me to be. And I have to remember, there are some who feel the same about me!

Not only that, but as we read on later in vss 13-16, we see that loving others in the family of GOD is not a condition of being a believer but rather an evidence that we are one.  It isn’t part of a list of “do’s” that we must do to stay in the family. It is something that is an outworking of the fact that we are part of this family.

Just like some families are good at being craftsmen in certain areas or other families are good at being teachers. Those of us in the family of GOD are to be characterized by the way we love others sacrificially. So either there are a lot of people going by the name “christian” that shouldn’t be in America or… 

It’s something to think about! We live according to our nature!

The perfection of love-vss. 17-21

This concept is something that came alive to me today as I was studying this chapter. The word for perfection can often mean maturity as well. That might help your thinking. Especially if you tend toward perfectionism.

This is the second aspect of what it means to be indwelt by Christ. The first is that GOD abides in us. The second is we are perfected or made complete by His love. Since GOD’s love is already perfect, we are talking more about our love for both GOD and others that needs the completing or perfecting.

When I read this I thought of the many times I have heard Christians say that they love GOD but can’t stand his kids…or some version of that!

Interestingly, John, under GOD’s inspiration says just the opposite! He says we are liars if we say we love GOD but don’t love our fellow believers!  John says that the test of love is that if we can’t love the person we can see and touch, who is in our face, then we don’t love GOD!

Wow! I guess for those who think they love GOD more, it may be that He just isn’t in our faces like other Christians are! Who would have thought? And yet, it is amazing how often I have had to learn to love someone in person, how much it helps deepen my love and appreciation for GOD in a more tangible way! Maybe the reason some of us find it easier to love GOD more is because He is silent and not as overtly in our faces as people are! It is definitly something to think about.

I hadn’t thought much about it until today! The thought that my ability to love others will actually perfect my love for GOD? That that is how GOD is using it in my life? Stunning! I love it! That He would use the one area of stress for believers in the church for milennia as a way to teach us to love Him more? To deepen our ability to have relationships with one another…both inside and outside the Church? It is amazingly stunning!

Love that matures into confidence-vss 17-18

And then, that this love, an overt sign of our relationship with Christ to the world, would also be used to build confidence that we are part of the family so that our natural fear, even terror at the coming judgement of the world (vss. 17-18) would be cast out. That perfecting of our love for GOD and our love for each other as we have already realized what He did to redeem us and bring us into the family…giving us the confidence to stand before GOD, the righteous judge…dressed in the righteousness of Christ!

Conclusion

Without love, there is no true demonstration of the life of Christ within us or true worship of GOD. Love is basic to what GOD requires of us. It is the first two commands. Love GOD and love others. It summarizes the Law of GOD in two commands.

Satan disrupts, GOD brings together…into fellowship. That takes love. Remember that when you see true fellowship. It is a miracle and work of GOD. Don’t take it for granted. 

 

For an excellent post that applies love to those in the Body of Christ who can be unloveable, I came across this one today that was very helpful!  The Giving Place 

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