Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background This week we wrap up our series on 1 John with the familiar and comforting words that “God is love.” Sometimes we take this wholly for granted. In the atmosphere around the community of John, this would have been shocking. To have this intimate relationship with God was out of the realm of possibility and yet so valuable and powerful in our faith. God is love and therefore we are perfected when loving God and loving the other. As in most cases, one of my favorite theologians writes about this love eloquently. Frederick Buechner defines salvation in these terms, in terms of God’s love.
“Who knows how the awareness of God’s love first hits people. Every person has his own tale to tell, including the person who wouldn’t believe in God if you paid him. Some moment happens in your life that you say Yes to right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen. Laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. Waking up to the first snow. Being in bed with somebody you love. Whether you thank God for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to Business as Usual, it may lose you the ball game. If you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may save your soul. How about the person you know who as far as you can possibly tell has never had such a moment-the soreheads and slobs of the world, the ones the world has hopelessly crippled? Maybe for that person the moment that has to happen is you.”
When I read these words, I understand how then we must love because God is love. If sin separates us from God, God’s love perfects us and brings us closer to the goal. God, who is love, opens us up by love (the whole abiding in God and God abiding in us). We are confident because God is love. If God was power, we would approach in fear. And then how would we treat one another? Instead, if we are true followers of Christ, God’s love incarnate, then we can’t help but love and create more relationship. We are that moment of love abiding in us. The goal is to not forget, embrace, and pass that love along to one another.
Quotes of the Week “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” ― Mother Teresa
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
1 John 4:7-21 (NRSV)
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only 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 atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives 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 seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters,[are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Questions for the Week
When have you felt loved by God?
How do you show love to others?
When is it hard to love? Why?