The Gospel of John and I John are two books that take the theme of love to a whole new level. In 21 chapters the word “love” appears 39 times. John’s first epistle is even more “love” laden with a mere 5 chapters John makes 27 references to love. Chapters 3 and 4 account for 20 of those 27! Bearing in mind that the NT has 261 mentions of love; two chapters corner over 10% of them!
For this short blog, I would like to look at I John 4:7-21.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 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. 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 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. 17 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. 18 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. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 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. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
This is an amazing passage with some huge missiological implications. I want to make a few brief comments.
All love comes from God (vs. 7) because God is love (Vss. 8, 16). The source of all genuine and self-giving love comes from God. This applies to Christians and non-Christians. Sometimes Christians have been disturbed by non-believers doing good and sacrificial act but they shouldn’t be. God’s grace works in all.
I used to challenge students asking them, what is it that God cannot do? They normally reply “nothing”. That of course is not true because God CANNOT NOT love. It is not possible for God to not love humanity. Love is that which defines God’s character. Unlike us, he is perfect and never goes against his character, so being love, he can’t not love. All he does is out of his great love: even judgement is not from hate but from love.
So if we want to live lives of love, love God.
Love is a prerequisite for knowledge of God (vs. 7). We cannot know God without first loving him and others. Those who say they know God and are not loving are, in John’s words, liars. Love opens us up to God’s love and knowledge of him as loving.
Finally, God’s love is active (vs. 9). “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”. “For God so loved the world, he gave his only son” (John 3:16). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (I John 3:16). When God loves, God acts.
The logic is obvious, our love must also be active, and as John tells us “ Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar” (vs. 20). I John 3:18 tells us “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”.