Loving the people of God
1John 5: The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome.
Before moving to other things John says a bit more about love in action. He’s already insisted that to be a follower of God requires more than words or even sincere desire. Again, “love,” to him is an “action” word rather than a “feelings” word. To love God is to love the Son and to love the Son is to love those he’s brought into the family of God. So what does it mean to love the children of God? Immediately, John takes us back to action. I love God’s people, not by feeling a certain way about them but, rather, by treating them in a certain way. John reminds me that God has given me some commandments concerning how I’m to treat my brothers and sisters. If I love God, I’ll keep those commandments and in doing so I’ll “love” those who are part of this great family of God. If I want proof of my love of God I’ll find it in how I treat his people. John adds that this isn’t that big a deal because this “love in action” that’s required of me isn’t all that troubling. I’m to love people as I love myself. That is, I’m to care about the needs of their lives, their comfort, and their security. Loving self isn’t about feeling a certain way about myself but is, rather, about the action I take on my own behalf. That’s exactly how I’m to love God’s people.
Take Away: To learn about your relationship with God, take a good look at your relationship to his people.
Feelings, nothing more than feelings…naw!
1John 4: That is the kind of love we are talking about.
Now I find myself at the heart of John’s letter. It’s here that I find the repeated declaration that “God is love.” The Apostle hammers his point home: God is love therefore to be in God is to be in love. If love doesn’t dominate my life then God doesn’t dominate me. If I don’t love people then God’s love is missing from my life and therefore God, himself, is missing. This “love business” demands some serious thought. What does it mean to love as God loves? If I’m not careful I wind up on the “emotions side” of love. I get the feeling that God is all about warm fuzzy feelings. Once there, I’m left with the idea that loving like God loves is to always “feel” a particular way about people whether they’re good or bad. However, I’ve taken the wrong fork in the road. John carefully describes what it means for God to be love. We know God is love, John says, because of what he does: he “sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” Love, then, isn’t how God feels about us. Rather it’s the action he takes in our behalf. The Lord doesn’t “so love the world that he” feels all warm and tingly toward us. Instead, he “so loves the world that he gives his only begotten Son.” Love is, then, an action word. To love is to take action, even personally painful action, on the behalf of the one loved…even if that one is absolutely unlovable. If I love as God loves I too will take action. John reminds me that there’s no way I can do that unless the Lord lives in me. On the other hand, if the Lord lives in me, I can’t help but act in love.
Take Away: Love isn’t how I feel as much as it is what I do.
Good for what ails you
1John 3: For God is greater than our worried hearts.
John moves to his favorite topic: love. Frankly, he sees love as a cure-all, good for what ails us. Are we at odds with our brothers and sisters? Love will fix it. Are we struggling in understanding God’s purpose for us and in grasping what Jesus has done for us? The key is love. When we see countless wrongs in the world and wonder what should be done about them John says the key component in our response is, you guessed it: love. The test of love proves or disproves our relationship to this God who is love. As his love is allowed into my life — as it’s allowed to influence how I feel about, well, everything, its then that I know I’m where God wants me. For many of us our greatest challenge is loving self. I, more than anyone else, know my faults and failures. It may be that I’ve been verbally abused and have come to believe that what was said to me and about me is true. Possibly, deep in my psyche is the belief that if anyone really knew me they’d see so many flaws that they’d never love me. John tells me that that’s simply untrue. The One who knows me best, who “knows more about us than we do ourselves” loves me with a powerful, sacrificial love. He thinks I’m worth loving, worth dying for. As I accept his love for me, and his evaluation of me my relationship with myself changes. Once again, even as I struggle with my own self-esteem, the answer is love.
Take Away: Love is the greatest.
Victory in Jesus
1John 2: He solved the sin problem for good.
An old preacher’s line is when asked the topic of his or her sermon is to reply “I’ve decided to preach about sin…I’m going to take a stand against it.” In this passage we find John doing just that. He tells his readers that he’s writing “to guide you out of sin.” Then, if a believer falls back into sin, he points us to the remedy, our “Priest-Friend” Jesus. Beyond that, as I consider the broader problem of sin, I’m told that Jesus has already dealt with sin at that level too. Sin, which breaks our relationship with our Heavenly Father, has been decisively dealt with through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. “He solved the sin problem for good.” When sin is an issue in my life there’s a remedy and his name is Jesus. From this passage I learn, then, that Christians can live in victory over intentional spiritual failure. I learn that if that failure comes anyway that Christ’s victory can yet be mine. I learn that, even as I’m dismayed by rampant, destructive sin in the world that there’s hope, a way out through the Lord. Because of him I’m set free from the domination of sin. That opens the way to abundant life. For every person who struggles with some old sinful habit; for everyone who sometimes feels the tug of some especially powerful temptation; for everyone who wants to live freely in Christ – for everyone – this is a wonderful, hope-filled Word from the Lord.
Take Away: At the cross Jesus defeated sin and death once and for all.
Walking in the light
1John 1: If we walk in the light…
John the Apostle is a man who enjoyed a close relationship with Jesus. At the Last Supper he’s the one who leans against the Lord to ask about the betrayer. His unofficial title in history is “John the Beloved.” The short letters he wrote focus on God’s love being active in us. He says that as a person who walked with Jesus, knowing him intimately, he wants to tell us how we too can experience an intimate relationship with the Lord. The key, he says, is our “walking in the light.” Immediately he defines that for us. To walk in the light is to walk with God. Obviously, there’s a way of living that nurtures a close, abiding relationship with the Lord. That way of life has wonderful benefits for me. For one thing as I walk in the light I find myself in the company of God’s people. For another, it’s in that relationship that the blood of Jesus is applied to my life, making me clean of all my sin. As I live in the light, I join the multitudes that have been made clean by the work of Christ. John is remembered as “the beloved” and as I walk with the Lord I join countless others who can be rightly called “beloved.” What a wonderful prospect!
Take Away: It’s such an amazing blessing to be one of the “beloved.”