Tuesday, August 16, 2011
IN THIS IS LOVE (A Meditational Thought)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:7-21, NASB)
Though I am focusing on verse 10, and not planning to exegete the entire passage, the impression the surrounding verses create will prove helpful.
John, one who was personally close to the incarnate Son of God, reflects upon the significance of love. Three expressions of love surface; the love God has for human beings, the love human beings have for God and the love human beings have for one another. The words recorded in verse 10 can be read in a flat, monotonous manner, as we too often read Scripture, or with the reflective awe that was likely stirring in the author as he pondered, with great experiential background, the magnificence of God and His manifestation of love toward us.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” As we attempt to appreciate what John says, let’s consider that one emphasis in the passage concerns the reality that this love which God has shown toward us impacts those who receive it in such a way that it becomes the source of our perfecting the love that we express toward God and others. Having been created in the image of God, we are to reflect His character by using our finite abilities as He uses His infinite abilities. Love requires that we, possessing appropriate abilities, use the abilities we possess as they were intending to be used. It should be plain to see that if we suppose that the nature of sin involves the loss of all ability, we cannot express love at all. In fact, under such a scenario, it is actually impossible to sin as sin involves a wrong use of our abilities, not the lack of ability.
John marvels at the love of God because, though there is a natural tendency to be drawn toward and express love for that which is pure, beautiful, majestic and impressive, it is difficult to love those who are insulting, rebellious and selfish. God, having been grieved and hurt by the unfaithful idolatry of mankind (Ge.6:5-7, Eze.6:9 among others), has risen above personal animosity and pursued a path and plan of redemption at His own expense and suffering. Such a display of moral character in the face of such adversity is far more impressive than any love manifested toward one who is perfectly pure and appealing, from whom one believes they will gain much benefit.
Jesus understood this perspective as evidenced in His words are recorded in Matthew 5:43-48. Notice how He concludes His thought. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB)
The “perfection” spoken of is as stated above, using our limited, finite abilities (whatever capacity we possess in whatever form they exist) to live up to the light we possess (however bright or dim it might be). Relegating love to the nature of God, similar to His power, eternality, omnipresence, authority, etc. robs Him of the praise due for the glorious Self-government exercised toward the literally despicable race of man. It also, places this love in a realm that eliminates it from any possibility of our emulating such character.
God is our model, our inspiration and our help. Let us grow in our understanding, appreciation and love.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36, NASB)