Read 1 John 4:7-11
7 Dear friends,let us continue to love one another,for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God,for God is love.
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love-not that we loved God,but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends,since God loved us that much,we surely ought to love each other. (NLT)
Our great overriding challenge in life is not to love God but to know and experience the love God has for us. If we put our love first we inevitably make love a matter of human effort and even pride. My compelling issue in life is not to love God but to realise I am loved by God. The latter leads to the former. This is so because real love doesn’t come naturally but supernaturally. Real love is not a humanly defined thing. God sets the standard,he defines it. And he does so by expressing his love in the person of Jesus. If we doubt God loves us we need only look to Jesus who came from heaven to earth to assure us of getting from earth to heaven. This was no mere sentiment,no doing us a favour in order to have us do one in return. This was sacrificial,costly love which is the benchmark of all love.
In this passage,John invites us to respond to such love with love of our own. Love which gets its flavour and taste and shape from the character of Jesus. This of course is obvious and oft repeated. But let’s consider another aspect to this command to love. If God is love and we love others in response to and in imitation of God’s love for us,then our love for others is a way God expresses his love for others. We incarnate God’s love when we love others. We give God’s love a human face. Which is what human beings need.
Once a little boy was trying to get to sleep in an unfamiliar bedroom. His father tried to assure him that he had no need to fear because God would be with him. The little boy acknowledged that but added that just for that night he would like to have a God with skin on. We all need God with skin on. God seemed to think that we needed the loving companionship of other human beings rather than just himself. When he made the first human beings,he was telling us that love needed a human face. We are urged so often to love one another for a number of reasons,but let’s not overlook this reason: we love because in loving we show something of God’s love to others. Whenever I act or speak in a godly way to others,I am loving them because I am incarnating to some degree the God who is love itself.
God pours his love out to us,with the supreme historical example of it being Jesus. We then are invited to pour it out to others. Love of others is not just a matter of being nice or helping others. It is God-like. It brings God into the lives of others. When I am loved by someone,I get a small glimpse of God’s love for me. Fallible and somehow incomplete human beings like us need to be loved. God knows that,so he gives us other people to love and asks us to love other people. God’s love so often has a very human shape to it.